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Data Sources & Tools Relevant to Rural Health

Source/Tool Topics Ease of Use Geographic Level of Data Frequency Updated

American Community Survey (ACS)
U.S. Census Bureau

Access via American Factfinder

Other Data Tools for accessing ACS data

Demographic
Age and sex
Ancestry
Disability
Commuting to work
Education
Employment
Family/relationships
Health insurance
Income and earnings
Language
Origins
Population change
Poverty
Race and ethnicity
Veterans
Housing - financial and physical characteristics

A variety of tools are available, for varying levels of expertise and purpose

National
State
County
Community
Rural-specific

Data estimates are released every year

1-year estimates for areas with population of
65,000 or more

3-year estimates for areas with population of
20,000 or more

5-year estimates for areas with population below 20,000

American Factfinder
U.S. Census Bureau

Centralized access to a variety of U.S. Census Bureau data

Both guided and advanced search options are available

National
State
County
Community
Rural-specific
Geographic Comparison Tables

Ongoing, as new U.S. Census Bureau data is available

American Factfinder: Community Facts
U.S. Census Bureau

Population
Age
Business and industry
Education
Housing
Income
Origins and language
Poverty
Veterans

Easy, web-based interface

National
State
County
Community
ZIP code

Varies. Uses the latest U.S. Census Bureau data available for the selected geography.

Area Health Resources Files (AHRF)
Health Resources and Services Administration

Includes the Health Resources Comparison Tool, for county comparisons

Data from many sources on the following topics:
Healthcare facilities
Healthcare utilization
Healthcare workforce
Health professions training
Demographics
Social determinants of health
Rural classifications

Challenging, data available as a download file or as a Microsoft Access database

National
State
County (except for workforce)

County AHRF is updated annually

Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America
Economic Research Service (ERS)
US Department of Agriculture

Population change overall and by demographic group
ACS data
BLS data
60 socioeconomic indicators

Easy, web-based interface

County

Ongoing, as new data is available

BEA Regional Data
Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)

Access BEA Regional Data Tables

Access BEA Regional Data Maps

Access per capita income via BEARFACTS Local Area (County) Fact Sheets

Employment
Per capita income
Income by industry (including healthcare)

Somewhat complex and powerful web-based tool and County-level customizable mapping.

Easy printable fact sheets for income data

State
County

Annual

Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

For state-level data access options, see State BRFSS Contacts

Health behaviors of adults, including:
Chronic diseases and conditions
Health-risk behaviors
Use of preventive health services

Accessing BRFSS county- level data directly requires statistical expertise

CDC web-based tools do not provide county-level details.

Easier-to-use tools that include BRFSS data:

National
State
County

Annual

Community Commons Maps & Data

Free, but registration required

Access Community Commons County Profiles

Data from a wide range of sources on topics that include:
Demographics
Social and economic factors
Health behaviors

Easy access county profiles

Somewhat complex but powerful mapping system

Varies by data source:
State
County
Census Tract
School District
Many more

Ongoing

County Health Rankings & Roadmaps
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Compiles and standardizes data from a variety of national sources on these topics:

Health factors

  • Health behaviors
  • Clinical Care
  • Social and economic factors
  • Physical environment

Health outcomes

  • Length of life
  • Quality of life

Easy, web-based interface

County
(Some data may not be available for all counties)

Annual

The Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care
The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice

Compiles Medicare data on:
Enrollee demographics
Reimbursement
Utilization
Quality

Map-based interface is fairly easy to use. Get profiles by county, hospital, and region by selecting from the map.

Data available for each geography varies:
Hospital Referral Region
Hospital Service Area
Primary Care Service Area
County (limited data)
Hospital

 

Data Resource Center for Child & Adolescent Health
Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (CAHMI)

Data from the National Survey of Children’s Health and the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs on:
Child health indicators
Family life indicators

Most useful for researchers. State-level rural data is available for some states, but only in the public use files, not via the web interface. Analyzing requires the ability to statistically account for the weighted nature of the survey.

National
State

 

ERS State Fact Sheets
Economic Research Service (ERS)
US Department of Agriculture

Data from ERS, Census, BLS,  BEA on:
Population
Income
Education
Employment

Easy, printable list of relevant information

National
State
Rural-specific

Ongoing, as new data is available

Food Environment Atlas
Economic Research Service (ERS)
US Department of Agriculture

Data from  a range of sources on:
Access to healthy food
Food security
Obesity rates
Physical activity
Demographics

Easy, web-based interface

State
County

 

Health, United States
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Access to nonmetropolitan data

Data from a range of sources on:
Health status and determinants
Healthcare utilization, Access
Expenditures

Publication with charts/tables

National
State
Rural-specific

Annual

Health System Data Center
The Commonwealth Fund

Provides access to the Commonwealth Fund's Scorecard on State Health System Performance, covering:
Access
Quality
Cost
Outcomes

Easy, web-based interface with option to download data to Excel

State
Hospital referral region

Annual

Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP)
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Access via HCUPnet

Hospital care data from a set of databases on:
Inpatient utilization
Emergency department utilization
Access
Cost
Quality
Outcomes

Easy, web-based access

National
State
County (beta version, for selected states)
Sets/groups of hospitals, including rural hospitals

Ongoing, as data is available

HealthLandscape
Robert Graham Center, American Academy of Family Physicians

Free, but registration required

Data from a variety of sources showing:
Healthcare facilities
Health status
Health insurance
Employment and income
Demographics

Somewhat complex but powerful web-based interactive mapping

State
County

 

Interactive Atlas of Heart Disease and Stroke
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Data from a variety of federal sources on:
Heart disease
Stroke
Social determinants of health
Health services
Healthcare facilities

Fairly straightforward web-based mapping system

National
State
County

 

Kaiser State Health Facts
Kaiser Family Foundation

Data from a variety of public and private sources on:
Demographics
Healthcare costs
Health insurance
Health status
Minority and women's health
Medicaid and Medicare
Healthcare providers

Easy, web-based access

State

Ongoing, as new data is available

Kids Count Data Center
Annie E. Casey Foundation

Data on children's health and well-being, from a variety of national and state sources, covering:
Demographics
Economic well-being
Education
Family and community
Health
Safety and risk behaviors

Easy to navigate website

State
County
Congressional District

Annual

Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Access LAUS Tables

Access  LAUS County Maps

Access LAUS Customized Tables

Employment
Unemployment

Basic tables available on web site

Easy-to-use maps

Somewhat complex web-based search tool

 

County

Monthly

Measure of America

Access Measure of America Maps

Data from a variety of sources on topics related to:
Health
Education
Income

 

Easy, web-based map tool.

Zoom in or enter ZIP code for a county profile
County data can be downloaded by submitting a download agreement.

National maps with county-level data

County profiles

Currently offers 2010-2011 and 2013-2014 data sets

Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS)
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)

Healthcare access
Health services utilization
Healthcare costs and payment methods
Healthcare quality
Health insurance coverage and cost

Easy to access summary tables
Somewhat complex web-based system
Downloadable files

National
State
County
Metropolitan/Non-metropolitan

 

Medicare Chronic Conditions Dashboards
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Provides data on Medicare beneficiaries on:
Chronic condition prevalence
Healthcare utilization and Medicare spending related to chronic conditions

Easy-to-use web-based system

National
State
County
Hospital Referral Region

Currently offers 2012 data

Medicare Geographic Variation Dashboards
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Medicare fee-for-service per capita costs

Fairly straightforward, web-based tool

In the county dashboard, select a state by clicking the map.

National
State
County

Annual

NCHHSTP Atlas
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP)

HIV/AIDS
Viral hepatitis
Tuberculosis
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Somewhat complex web-based system that offers various narrowing options depending on the data

National
State
County

 

National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics
US Department of Veterans Affairs

Veteran population
VA benefit utilization

Downloadable files
Static maps

National
State
County

 

National Health Interview Survey
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Access rural national data via Health Data Interactive

Access NHIS Datasets

Health status
Health behaviors
Health insurance coverage

Somewhat complex web-based search

National nonmetropolitan data also available in the annual
Summary Health Statistics for the U.S. Population: National Health Interview Survey

In Health Data Interactive, Nonmetropolitan is under the category "Urbanicity"

Annual

Population Estimates
U.S. Census Bureau

Access via American Factfinder

Age
Sex
Race and ethnicity

American Factfinder's guided and advanced search options are available

National
State
County

Annual

Rural Data Portal
Housing Assistance Council

Data from a range of sources on:
Demographics
Social indicators
Economics
Housing

Easy-to-use web-based tool

National, with rural option
State, with rural option
County

 

Small Area Health Insurance Estimates (SAHIE)
U.S. Census Bureau

Access SAHIE Interactive Data Tool

Access SAHIE State and County Maps

Health insurance coverage by age, race, gender, and income

Straightforward web-based tool

Easy-to-find national maps showing county-level data

State
County

Updated annually, but base data may not be as current for all rural areas, because it uses ACS data.

Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE)
U.S. Census Bureau

Access SAIPE Interactive Data Tool

Access SAIPE State and County Maps

Annual model-based estimates for poverty (including children in poverty)
Median household income

Straightforward web-based tool

Easy-to-find national maps showing county-level data

State
County
School District

Updated annually,  but base data may not as current for all rural areas, because it uses ACS data.

State Cancer Profiles
National Cancer Institute

Cancer burden
Screening and risk factors
Demographic data

Easy-to-use web-based system, including mapping

National
State
County

Data comes from state public health surveillance systems, so is updated as complete national data is available. State websites may offer more detailed and more current data.

Why Not The Best?
The Commonwealth Fund

Data from a range of sources on:
Quality
Patient experience
Outcomes
Health status

Easy system for comparing regions and hospitals

State
Hospital Referral Region
County
Hospital
Groups of hospitals, including "average rural" and by bed size

Ongoing

Selected sources identified via:
Using Data to Understand Your Community, Rural Health System Analysis and Technical Assistance (RHSATA)

Phone: 1-800-270-1898
Email: info@raconline.org

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Funding for this project was supported by Grant Number U56RH05539 from the Office of Rural Health Policy, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The contents of this website are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the funder.