Comparison of Health-Related Factors between Rural and Urban Pennsylvania Residents Using Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Systems (BRFSS) Data

Posted: January 20, 2011

In a dual study prepared for the Center for Rural Pennsylvania titled, Analyses of Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Data for Rural Health Outcomes, Slippery Rock University and The Pennsylvania State University compared rural and urban Pennsylvanian resident’s health profiles, lifestyles choices, and use of health care services.

Using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a collection system regularly compiling data from state health departments, Slippery Rock University evaluated the differences among rural and urban populaces in regards to their health conditions, risk factors such as smoking, diet and physical activity, use of preventative services, and the availability of health care services. The data concluded those living in rural areas were at a higher risk to suffer from chronic illnesses and health problems than those living in urban areas. Also, the rural populace was less likely to make use of health care services despite the risk factors associated with unhealthy lifestyles being significantly higher in rural areas. 
The second study used the BRFSS to observe and research trends in the health status, lifestyle behaviors, and access and use of health services in rural and urban communities within the commonwealth. The purpose of the study was to analyze geographic targeting of health services to the populace. The research concluded that such geographic targeting had little impact on public health resources. 

The report concluded with policy considerations including strengthening family practices, reducing health care rates for rural areas, and addressing poor lifestyle practices through public education.

The report can be read in its entirety on the Center for Rural Pennsylvania website.

Prepared by Addison Weinstein, research assistant to Dr. Theodore Alter