Economic Information Bulletin No. (EIB-251) 92 pp

March 2023

Linkages Between Rural Community Capitals and Healthcare Provision: A Survey of Small Rural Towns in Three U.S. Regions

This report identifies community-level factors affecting the recruitment and retention of rural healthcare professionals. The authors used key informant interviews and a survey of healthcare professionals in 150 small rural towns (with a population between 2,500 and 20,000) in 9 States (Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wisconsin), emphasizing a broad range of community assets and investments. Most participants perceived social capital (involving personal and professional relationships) to be important for the recruitment and retention of healthcare professionals. Human capital (resources inherent in people—such as their education, skills, and health) and physical capital (infrastructure, buildings, and equipment) were also important to most healthcare professionals but generally less so than social capital. Other types of community capital were important to a minority of health professionals. These findings suggest that rural communities can have a significant influence on attracting and retaining healthcare professionals through investments in social, human, and physical capital. The importance of many of these factors varies across the study regions and professional categories.

Keywords: rural healthcare workforce, recruitment, retention, community capitals

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