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By Suhan, Matteus, Ruhi, Zack, Anay


A rural community is one that is distanced from urban areas and tends to be based in farmland and agricultural areas, where the close-knit community has strong interpersonal ties to each other and the broader community at hand. Many physical and sociocultural barriers to healthcare are ever so present in rural communities. In rural areas, community members tend to be farther away from essential healthcare services. This distance tends to cause transportation challenges for many to access such services. Based on previous health experiences, many in rural communities may feel a certain level of mistrust with care provided in systemic healthcare systems – and, as such, may transfer to alternative medicine in hopes of avoiding health discomfort. Both barriers inhibit efficient and adequate patient care specific to rural communities.

Storytelling through narrative medicine is necessary to understand how public health issues are interwoven in the lives of those affected. The majority of people fail to empathize with larger public health issues that they can’t put a name or a face to, presenting a larger issue in the advocacy for and protection against systemic barriers to achieving quality care. Interpersonal stories aren’t just important for understanding public health issues; they are a necessity. Because of this, the playlist provided includes personal narratives of individuals who have had unique experiences in rural healthcare.

Ebony Talley-Brame discusses the challenges in starting a transportation business for her rural community to bridge the gap between her community and the healthcare system. In addition, she discusses the patient-physician relations that have formed over the generations and their lasting impact within rural communities. Cynthia Songs discusses the distance barriers between her rural community and the hospitals with the best funding and technology. Barbara Brayboy contrasts the patient-physician interactions in her youth with modern healthcare. She criticizes the lack of personal connection in standardized health rather than the strong community-style physician most often found in rural healthcare. Brayboy also delves into the dynamic of access to healthcare, insurance, private versus public rural healthcare clinics, and race. Margot Barnhardt shares her opinions, contextualized by her experience working in a healthcare setting, on the affordability of healthcare, medicare, and universal healthcare. Jeffrey Balfrey describes his home remedies for treating his receding gum disease and distrust in the prevalence of oral medications for treating disease. Then, Janet Ross discusses disparities between her grandmother’s and aunt’s experiences with homeopathic remedies in cancer treatment. Archie Daniel goes over his Mom’s battle with presumable cancer, talking about how his parents didn’t believe in going to the doctor for themselves and bore through their pain. Leslie Rummage expresses the prioritization of physical labor over exercise in her rural community. She then explains environmental factors that caused health problems, like fried food and the farming environment where her father worked. Lori Hinga provides a window into the struggles faced by rural residents in dealing with insurance and healthcare infrastructure.

Student Essays

Utilizing Patient-Provider Connections as a Lens to Characterize Rural Healthcare

The patient-provider relationship in healthcare has evolved far from its initial paternalistic model. A “provider” refers to a medical professional who determines the course of care, but comes secondary to the “patient” in terms of patient needs and autonomy, as … Read more

Solution in the face of adversity: An analysis of the use of homeopathic medicines in treating disease in rural communities

Introduction Mistrust centered on healthcare professionals and the healthcare system as a whole is a social epidemic in rural healthcare communities. Rural mistrust of the healthcare system and physicians stems from a long, systemic assault on the integrity of rural … Read more

A Long Way to Quality Care: Confronting Rural Healthcare’s Distance Divide

Introduction The rapid urbanization trends observed in recent decades have increased the gap between urban and rural communities, leaving rural communities behind in healthcare accessibility and technology. Rural communities see long distances to adequate care and limited access to personal … Read more

Socioeconomic and Systemic Barriers in Rural Healthcare

Introduction Heart disease is the leading cause of death of people in the United States. Rural American communities are especially susceptible and more likely to die from heart disease or related complications than their urban counterparts. This is the reality … Read more

Cultural Conceptions as Barriers to Healthcare Seeking Activities

Introduction Archie Daniel, a resident in a rural community, found his mother dead in her bed during his childhood. He shares how she never went to the doctor except to take her kids, and how she would suffer intense stomach … Read more