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Navigating the Social Determinants of Care: Health Disparities in Rural & Urban Communities

Introduction to Geographical Determinants of Health

This topic focuses on the social determinants of health, and how certain factors may impact a patient’s ability to receive quality care. In general, social determinants are factors that affect health outcomes [1]. These factors can be affected by where a patient lives, works, and even where they grow up [1]. This article will focus on geographical and environmental determinants of health. Specifically, we will discuss how living in rural and urban areas can lead to various negative health outcomes.


Determinants in Rural Communities

Unsurprisingly, residents in rural communities face social determinants of health. This is often due to their lack of availability to nearby healthcare services, lack of availability of specialists, and even lack of resources such as food and shelter [2]. This also means that rural residents may have to travel farther than most to visit their doctor. This results in more time needed off from work or school. Furthermore, rural areas often lack public transportation, making visiting the doctor’s expensive [2]. This can especially be challenging for older patients or patients with chronic conditions who require multiple trips and checkups [2]. Furthermore, it’s important to acknowledge that patients don’t often face only one type of social determinant. Oftentimes, they face several determinants. For instance, rural patients may also face determinants such as a lack of economic stability, a lack of education, and a lack of community.


The geographic isolation worsens the combination of challenges like economic instability, limited access to education opportunities, and lack of resources. This means rural patients lack access to preventive care and chronic care management. Therefore, it’s important to consider the barriers that health solutions need to overcome regarding patients in rural areas.

Determinants in Urban Communities

Although social determinants commonly focus on rural communities, it’s also important to discuss determinants faced by urban patients [3]. For instance, around 91% of people living in urban areas are breathing in polluted air [3]. Furthermore, resources in urban areas are often divided unevenly. This can mean that one side of a street may have access to various services while the other side does not [3]. It’s also to note that urbanization is correlated with higher rates of poor mental health [3]. This can cause increased depression and anxiety [3]. Even other diseases like asthma, cancer, and heart disease can be worsened in urban communities [3]. 


Furthermore, as we saw during the pandemic, cities are often epicenters for transmitting widespread disease to large populations in a short amount of time [3]. This means patients who are immunocompromised can find it difficult to live in cities, especially during the flu and cold seasons. Therefore, although it may seem like urban patients have better access to care than rural patients, the opposite may be true. The differences between higher-income neighborhoods and lower-income neighborhoods can lead to inadequate housing, limited access to resources, and poor health outcomes. 

Importance of Overcoming Social Determinants

Overall, overcoming social determinants is important because it leads to disease prevention and improved life expectancy [2]. Furthermore, access to healthcare promotes a better quality of life for patients [2]. Therefore, healthcare professionals must be aware that some of their patients may be dealing with determinants that make it harder for them to receive adequate care. These can range from issues like lack of transportation, lack of a good housing environment, and even lack of access to resources like food and shelter. Healthcare tools need to be created with these determinants in mind because patients should be able to access care regardless of where they live.


HITS provides healthcare management services & works with doctors to develop health informatics tools that promote safe and secure care. We take pride in our services and settle for nothing other than 100% quality solutions for our clients. Having the right team assist with data sharing is crucial to encouraging collaborative and secure care. HITS also focuses on transforming health care by analyzing integrated medical solutions and evaluating information systems. Our goal is to enhance individual and population health outcomes, improve patient care, and strengthen the clinician-patient relationship.


  1. https://www.cdc.gov/publichealthgateway/sdoh/index.html 
  2. https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/topics/healthcare-access
  3. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/urban-health
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