Rural Health-Economic Development

The relationship between health and economic activity is bi-directional.  Communities lacking economic opportunity tend to have a greater proportion of their population struggle with mental and physical health challenges. Social factors such as living in poverty increases the risk of poor health. And yet mental and physical health challenges can and do affect community life, including economic development. For example, the opioid epidemic and other addiction problems are a growing concern nationwide, making it more difficult for those affected to be fully engaged in employment and other economic activities. Also, there are important linkages between drug abuse and other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, which can inhibit economic productivity of households and communities.  This workshop explored the interrelationships between health and community economic development.

The objectives of the workshop were threefold:

  1. Identify gaps in knowledge and programming regarding the interconnectedness of health and community economic development.
  2. Develop partnerships in the North Central region across: Those who work in health with those who work in community/economic development; and Researchers and outreach specialists.
  3. Encourage collaborations to target research and programming needs and form interdisciplinary grant teams.

Workshop Information and Schedule
Workshop Report

Participant List


Rural Health and Economic Development Nexus Introduction Presentation, Mark Skidmore
Health Costs and Access and Economic Development, Shoshanah Inwood
Community-level Issues in Behavioral Health and Economic Development, Scott Loveridge
Food, Health and Economic Development, Amanda Corbett

Funded Projects:

Rural Economies: Health Insurance Coverage and Access to Care
PI: Carrie Johnson, North Dakota State University ($18,750)
Co-PI: Elizabeth Kiss, Kansas State University

Those living in rural areas of the country face unique challenges related to health care. Previous research has found that they are less likely to be offered employer-sponsored health insurance plans and medical treatment may be delayed because they need to travel greater distances to access the healthcare system. Little research has focused on those in rural areas since the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010. This study seeks to conduct in-depth case study research with farm/ranch, rural, and urban residents in two North Central region states to develop a decision-making model that can be used in future studies on this topic. Case study methodology will add a level of detail not currently available in existing literature.

Rural Quality of Life Indicators Project

PI: Russell Medley, University of Illinois Extension ($19,678)

Co-PIs: Elizabeth Kiss (Kansas State University), Carrie McKillip, Tessa Hobs-Curley and Kristin Bogdonas (University of Illinois), Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel (University of Nebraska-Lincoln), Kenneth Sherin (South Dakota State University), Michael Wilcox (Purdue University), and Alison Davis (University of Kentucky)

Rural Quality of Life Indicators Project is a plan to prepare a proposal to develop and pilot an instrument that not only scores a community or region on various “quality of life indicators” that include both health and economic determinants, and but goes further to recommend projects/programs/activities to improve the score on each indicator, tied directly to the community in question. This will simulate individual case management, where the individual (in this case community or region) helps to identify their current progress on a particular indicator, through conversation and stage “markers”.


Innovative Models of Mental Health Care for Farmers and Farm Families
PI: Carrie Henning-Smith, University of Minnesota ($24,683)
Co-Pis: Shoshanah Inwood, Ohio State University and Andrea Bjornestad, SDSU

Farmers and farm families in the North Central region face innumerable threats to their physical and mental well-being, including changing demographics, limited access to health care, strained finances, weather variability, market prices, as well as geographic and social isolation. The impact of these issues is evident throughout the agricultural industry in the poor physical and mental health of farmers and farm families. Ensuring a healthy population and a secure agricultural system requires finding innovative ways to support farmers and farm families. Doing so may mean going beyond the traditional means of delivering care, to using methods that are more acceptable and accessible to farmers and farm families. In this proposal, we are focusing specifically on innovative methods for mental health care delivery for farmers and farm families, in order to provide a solid foundation for expanding to other topics, including physical health and farm worker health, through the collaborative partnership that this project will foster. The three primary objectives are:

  • Objective #1: Synthesize available information on current mental health delivery models for farmers and farm families in the North Central region.
  • Objective #2: Identify opportunities for innovative rural mental health care delivery systems for farmers and farm families in the North Central region using key informant interviews.
  • Objective #3: Foster a strong and sustainable research partnership in order to develop a more extensive grant proposal, responsive to the research results gained from Objectives #1-2.