Research Workshop: “Including Rural Populations in Health Care Research”
Dr. Nate Olson (CSUB)
Friday, May 26th, 2023 (12:10-2:00 PM) Baker (180) Room 107
The COVID-19 pandemic has made health care disparities between urban and rural areas of the United States more apparent. For instance, rural areas of the US have lower vaccination and higher mortality and morbidity rates for COVID-19 than urban areas. More generally, rural populations, on average, have worse health outcomes and less access to care than urban populations. However, the lack of opportunities for rural populations to participate in health care research is a key issue that has not been directly addressed in the bioethics literature. In this talk, I argue that inclusion of rural populations in health care research is a vital topic that demands bioethical attention and concern for several reasons. First, standard arguments for broadening and diversifying research participation, such as gaining access for underrepresented populations to research innovations and improving the generalizability of study results, also apply to rural populations. Second, better inclusion of rural participants will likely lead to better understanding of the factors that lead to health disparities for rural populations. Third, more research in rural areas can help ameliorate disparities in health care capacity in those areas. Finally, increasing participation of rural populations in health care research can help improve the level of trust rural populations have in medical research, due to evidence that familiarity with scientific research correlates with higher trust in scientific research. Given the currently low levels of trust among rural populations, illustrated, for instance, by low COVID-19 vaccination rates, all avenues for increasing trust need to be explored.