New report finds children in rural areas face different health challenges

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Health Resources and Services Administration
Monday, October 24, 2011

Children in rural areas are more likely to face different challenges to their health and have less access to care when compared with children in urban areas, according to a new report from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH):  The Health and Well-Being of Children in Rural Areas: A Portrait of the Nation in 2007, which is published every four years, examined the overall health of rural children in the United States from birth to 17 years. The report finds greater prevalence of certain physical, emotional, behavioral and developmental conditions in rural areas.

Based on a national survey of parents, the report presents information on children’s health status, and their access to and use of health care services as measured through their parents’ reports.  It considers children’s body mass index, social skills and behaviors and the presence of one or more chronic conditions.  Aspects of the environment that were assessed in the survey include family structure, poverty level, parental health and well-being and community surroundings.

“ This national survey demonstrates how children in rural areas face particular health risks,” said HRSA Administrator Mary Wakefield, Ph.D, R.N.”  “Using the information provided by parents about their children will give public health officials a more complete picture for how to improve these children’s health outcomes. HRSA’s programs in rural health policy, maternal and child health and across the agency will look to these findings to inform our work going forward.”

Findings include:

  • Children living in rural areas are more likely to have public insurance, such as Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, while urban children are more likely to be privately insured.
  • The percentage of children with chronic conditions such as obesity, asthma and diabetes is highest amongst teenagers living in small rural areas.  

The National Survey of Children’s Health is sponsored by HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Technical appendices at the end of the book present information about the survey methodology and sample. To see more in-depth information about the book and its findings, visit


The Health Resources and Services Administration is part of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. HRSA is the primary federal agency responsible for improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable. For more information about HRSA and its programs, visit

Date Last Reviewed:  March 2017