Data Sources & Tools Relevant to Rural Health

Source/Tool Topics Ease of Use Geographic Level of Data Frequency Updated
2014 Update of the Rural-Urban Chartbook
Rural Health Reform Policy Research Center

Individual data tables (Excel)
Data from many federal sources on the following topics
Demographics
Health behaviors and risk factors
Mortality rates
Healthcare access and use
Other health measures
Printed report
Excel spreadsheet
National
Regional
5 levels of urbanization/rurality
Infrequent.
The 2014 edition updates a 2001 report from the CDC.
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
CMS Data Navigator
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
A range of CMS programs, including:
Medicaid
Medicare
CHIP
Health Insurance Marketplace
Demonstrations
Easy-to-use interface for identifying data sources and reports.

Some sources require statistical expertise.
National
Regional
State
County
Hospital Referral Region
Varies
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
National Survey on Drug Use and Health Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Access Drug Use and Health Detailed Tables, 2013 Access Mental Health Detailed Tables, 2013 Mental health conditions and servicesSubstance abuse incidence and treatment Detailed tables available on website. For rural data, look for tables that list "Geographic Characteristics" National
State
Regions within states
Rural-specific
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)