NC Rural Health Leadership Alliance Releases NC Rural Health Snapshot

June 22, 2021

NC Rural Health Leadership Alliance Releases Snapshot of Opportunities to Improve Rural Health Throughout the State 

2021 North Carolina Rural Health Snapshot shows “two North Carolinas” when it comes to health and wellness 

CARY— The NC Rural Health Leadership Alliance — a program of the Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation (FHLI) — released its inaugural 2021 North Carolina Rural Health Snapshot, an advocacy resource that examines State-specific health indicators to demonstrate the wide gulf in access to quality health care between North Carolinians living in rural areas and the rest of the State.

“Rural hospitals and their community partners have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, serving and protecting their communities despite many of them struggling financially,” said Emily Roland, state director of programs for the North Carolina Healthcare Foundation and chair of the NC Rural Health Leadership Alliance. “This snapshot catalogues the variety of critical factors impacting the health of our rural neighbors and serves as a platform for championing comprehensive solutions to ensure access to healthcare, workforce, education, and social resources essential to all of us.” 

Recognizing the importance of geography for affordable access to care and health status, the 2021 North Carolina Rural Health Snapshot aims to identify opportunities for North Carolina to improve how the health system serves its rural population.

Based on the assessment of more than 30 health indicators specific to North Carolina, the report finds that there are often two North Carolinas when it comes to health care, with sharp disparities between urban and rural areas of the state. Wide differences in health care for rural populations are particularly pronounced in the areas of affordable access to care, preventive care, dental disease, maternal health, food security, and premature death.

“It is of vital importance that we ensure all North Carolinians have the opportunity to be healthy and have access to affordable, quality health care regardless of where they call home,” said Patrick Woodie, President of the NC Rural Center and co-chair of the NC Rural Health Leadership Alliance. “This snapshot offers insight into the opportunity to expand these critical, quality-of-life services to our rural citizens and narrow the disparate divide.” 

The 2021 North Carolina Rural Health Snapshot found the following:

  • 80 counties in North Carolina have too few primary care providers.
    • Many counties also need more dental and/or behavioral health providers.
  • Rural NC men’s (45 and older) suicide rate is higher than their non-rural peers. 
  • After accounting for differences in age, the Veteran suicide rate in North Carolina is significantly higher than the overall national suicide rate.
  • Rural youth are twice as likely to commit suicide than their non-rural peers.
    • And have less available help – 34 counties have no licensed psychologists.
  • Only 35.1% of dentists participate in Medicaid in North Carolina. 
    • NC is 37th worst in dentist participation in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
    • Three North Carolina counties have no practicing dentists.

The NC Rural Health Leadership Alliance and its members offer the information contained within the 2021 report to open discussions with health and community leaders, and ultimately to develop collaborative solutions to increase the opportunities for health and wellness in our State’s rural communities. 

The 2021 North Carolina Rural Health Snapshot is available online at

About FHLI’s NC Rural Health Leadership Alliance

A program of the Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation (FHLI), the North Carolina Rural Health Leadership Alliance is a collaborative network of associations, organizations, and individuals representing healthcare, education, economic development, local government, and a variety of rural stakeholders invested in supporting rural health. It is committed to amplifying the voice of North Carolina’s rural communities with the intention of improving the health and well-being of all citizens. NCRHLA is currently recognized by the National Rural Health Association as North Carolina’s state rural health association.


For more information, contact:
Marni Schribman, Director of Communications & Public Relations
Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation