The purpose of the Rural Public Health Research Agenda is to identify and articulate areas of public health research that can influence policy and practice, and impact the health of rural populations. Recognizing that rural health research has tended to focus on access to care issues, this effort focuses upon those issues that can more broadly influence health status in rural America. Access to care is an issue critical to improving health status, but equal in importance are issues such as health behavior, environmental health, infectious disease surveillance, and other issues of public health interest. Topic areas covered within the Research Agenda are broadly defined under the headings of Workforce Development and Competency Enhancement, Rural Public Health Preparedness, Rural Public Health Infrastructure, Access to Care/Safety Net Support, Environmental Issues, and Rural Health Disparities.
The Research Agenda was developed in collaboration with public health experts from across the country who attended a two day Agenda Setting meeting in Pittsburgh, PA, September 22-23, 2003. In preparation for this meeting, "working papers" were developed on each of the six topic areas. These papers provided background information and data supporting the need for additional research in these areas, as well as beginning thoughts on research questions and opportunities. During the meeting participants were divided into groups for facilitated discussions designed to refine the working papers and to develop the specific research agenda for each topic area. The essence of the discussions is captured and distilled in a final product, Bridging the Health Divide: The Rural Public Health Research Agenda, published in April, 2004.
The Rural Public Health Research Agenda is being disseminated to schools of public health, governmental agencies, private foundations and other institutions that support or have interest in public health policy and practice research throughout the United States. The Research Agenda was written to encourage researchers and funders to consider rural populations as they design and implement studies, stimulate new research activities looking at those issues that impact rural populations, and encourage funding agencies and foundations to consider rural research priorities as they prioritize funding opportunities.