Promotion and Protection of Rural Miner Health: Are the Resources in Place?

Research center:
Lead researcher:
Project funded:
September 2011
Project completed:
July 2013

Rural miners are exposed in their work to various potentially toxic or harmful materials or agents. Access to health care in rural mining communities may be limited, and health care providers in these communities face challenges in service delivery due to the various presentations of acute and chronic problems related to occupational exposures. Rural health care providers may not be trained to assess for these unique risks, may not be equipped to diagnose and treat, and may be challenged in engaging the community in health care solutions. The study aims to 1) Locate and map mining communities in the US and rural safety net providers (RHCs, FQHCs and Critical Access Hospitals) in those communities; and 2) Identify environmental health competencies (specifically related to miner health) in rural primary care providers practicing in identified mining communities.

For Aim 1, data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the Department of Energy will be used to identify the location and type of mining operations in the US. Data from CMS (Rural Health Centers), HRSA (Federally Qualified Health Centers), and the Flex Monitoring Team (Critical Access Hospitals) will be used to identify the location and type of safety net providers in the geographic areas that correspond to mining communities. Spatial maps will show the distribution of mine sites, the type of mine sites, the distribution of safety net providers, and the type of safety net providers in corresponding communities.

For Aim 2, staff will develop an online survey of rural safety net providers to assess competence in key environmental health competencies needed to provide safe, high quality care for miners and their families in rural areas. The Center's year one study of key environmental health competencies for rural primary care providers will inform the selection of survey items. Safety net providers in mining communities will be invited to participate in this survey. Descriptive analyses will provide insight into competency gaps for providers in mining communities. Results of the study will help to inform policy decisions about improved health care delivery services for rural mining populations, including the need for better access to care, adequate protection for miners and their families from occupational risks, and health promotion for this population. Anticipated products include a final report, an article for journal submission, and a conference presentation.


  • Promotion and Protection of Rural Miner Health: Are the Resources in Place? (Final Report)
    West Virginia Rural Health Research Center
    Date: 06/2013
    This report shows that mining areas in the United States, compared to non-mining areas, have on average better supplies of safety net providers, hospitals, and practicing primary care physicians. However, the study results support the need to examine the availability of safety net provider types in selected geographic areas where mining is done.