Unmet Health and Social Needs of Rural Residents with Disability

Research center:
Lead researcher:
Project funded:
September 2022
Anticipated completion date:
April 2024

There is growing evidence that a consequential percentage of individuals who become infected with COVID-19 will develop long-term health conditions, some of which may be disabling. Even before the public health emergency, disability was a substantial concern in the United States, affecting more than 61 million adults nationally. Prior research has confirmed that the prevalence of disability is particularly pronounced in rural communities and rural residents experience disability at higher rates than their urban counterparts. Some analyses have suggested that rural-urban disparities in disability prevalence are particularly pronounced among Black and other minoritized races and ethnicities. Extensive research suggests individuals with physical and mental disabilities may experience multiple barriers to needed health care and social supports. Although research is limited, poorer access to insurance coverage, lower rates of specialty care availability, and greater travel distances may place rural residents at greater risk for unmet needs, and some single-state and qualitative studies suggest that rural residents with disabilities struggle to obtain primary and specialty care because of affordability, availability, and transportation issues. However, the lack of national data on rural-urban differences in access to healthcare services may limit policymakers' abilities to develop comprehensive strategies to address any access concerns. This project will address this gap by examining rural-urban differences in access to health care and social wellbeing for adults experiencing disability.