Task Force on Rural Health

Rural North Carolina faces unique obstacles that must be addressed to improve health outcomes. The North Carolina Institute of Medicine (NCIOM), in collaboration with the Office of Rural Health and Community Care (ORHCC), Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, and other partners, convened a task force to develop a comprehensive, coordinated rural health action plan. The plan was developed with input from eight rural counties across the state gathered through a community forum process. The effort was funded through the Trust. The rural health plan highlights the underlying causes of health disparities in rural areas, and identifies strategies at the state and local levels to address those problems.

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Task Force Leadership

All Members


Chris Collins, MSW


North Carolina Office of Rural Health and Community Care

Paul Cunningham, MD, FACS

Dean and Senior Associate Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs

Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University

Donna Tipton-Rogers, EdD


Tri-County Community College

Project Directors

Kimberly Alexander-Bratcher, MPH

Project Director

North Carolina Institute of Medicine


Berkeley Yorkery, MPP

Project Director

North Carolina Institute of Medicine

Meeting Dates

August 2013 - May 2014

Task Force meeting dates, agendas, and additional materials



Approximately one-in-three North Carolinians, almost 3 million people, lives in a rural county (e.g., non-metropolitan statistical area). North Carolinians living in rural areas are less likely to have access to health services, more likely to engage in risky health behaviors, and have a higher mortality rate than North Carolinians living in non-rural areas. Rural North Carolinians are more likely to forgo seeing a doctor due to cost and are less likely to visit a dentist. Smoking and obesity are more prevalent in rural counties in North Carolina. Rural North Carolinians are more likely to die due to heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, unintentional injuries, and suicide. There are also rural-urban disparities in infrastructure and the capacity to address health needs. The health disparities between urban and rural residents are due to a number of factors including: differences in demographic and socioeconomic factors, health behaviors, access to, and quality of health care.

The goal of the NCIOM Task Force on Rural Health is to develop a North Carolina Rural Health Action Plan to provide policy makers, funders, and stakeholder organizations with a common vision and action steps to improve rural health.