What matters for rural Americans

Published 11:42 am Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A Harvard University research newsletter distributed in late October contained a ton of valuable information that is relevant to all who live in rural America.

The research summary is called “What matters to rural Americans” and is available to the public through the Harvard Kennedy School Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. In articles by Chloe Reichel, the author summarizes a survey of 1,300 rural Americans called Life in Rural America and notes that two very important issues rise to the forefront for what people care about: the economy and the opioid epidemic.

“According to survey results, 25 percent of respondents named drug addiction or abuse as the biggest problem facing their community. Economic concerns were listed as the biggest problem by 21 percent of respondents. (Poll co-director Robert J. Blendon) also noted that while opioid misuse is often thought to impact just a few rural states, the poll found that concerns about opioid use were widespread across all of rural America.”

Healthcare services are a very important priority to rural Americans as well. Rural Americans tend to have far less access to doctors than people in urban areas do.

“While rural populations tend to have lower diagnosis rates of early-stage cancers than their urban counterparts, they have higher rates of being diagnosed with later-stage cancers. This helps to explain why rural areas have higher cancer mortality rates than urban areas, despite lower overall cancer incidence rates.”

We find this newsletter to be a very valuable resource in large part because we believe it to be accurate. The economy, opioid epidemic, and healthcare. These are the top priorities for the rural communities of the United States. It serves as a blueprint for priorities in bettering our communities.

We also found in the research a positive fact that we agree with as well — that despite the negative headlines and reports to be found about the state of rural America today, rural Americans don’t see it that way. Citing the Life in Rural America survey, Reichel wrote:

“Despite the problems facing rural Americans, many participants were optimistic about their lives, and valued specific aspects of rural life. In terms of overall expectations, most rural Americans say their lives have turned out either better than they expected (41 percent) or about like they expected (42 percent), while only 15 percent say their lives have turned out worse than they expected.”

The Daily Independent of Ashland