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Southwest Rural Health Research Center study named ‘Article of the Year’ by Journal of Rural Health

The article on COVID-19 prevention behaviors was the first national study of its kind when published in early 2021

A Texas A&M study finding key differences in the rates at which individuals in rural and urban areas wear face coverings in public and work from home during the pandemic has been named the 2022 Article of the Year by The Journal of Rural Health. “Rural and Urban Differences in COVID-19 Prevention Behaviors” was chosen by the journal’s editorial board for this honor from all papers published in 2021 based on relevance of the topic, innovation in the methodology, applicability of the results, and overall reach of the manuscript.

Timothy Callaghan, PhD, and Alva O. Ferdinand, DrPH, JD, of the Southwest Rural Health Research Center at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health, will be honored at the National Rural Health Association’s Annual Rural Health Conference awards luncheon on May 12, 2022, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In the first national study of its kind when published in early 2021, the research team found Americans who live in rural areas were significantly less likely than those who lived in urban areas to wear face coverings in public, sanitize their homes and workplaces, avoid dining at restaurants and bars, or work from home.

The findings were based on a representative survey of 5,009 American adults between May 28 and June 8, 2020, that analyzed the influence of rural status, political ideology, demographic factors and COVID-19 experiences on self-reported adoption of preventive health behaviors.

When including political ideology and social factors in their analysis, the researchers found that some variables were associated with the likelihood of following recommendations. Older respondents and people who were more concerned about COVID-19 were more likely to follow at least some of the recommendations, as were those with greater educational attainment and higher income. People with a more conservative political ideology were less likely to follow prevention guidelines, and women were more likely to follow them than men.

In the paper, the authors argue that public health messaging in rural communities that considers factors like trust of medical experts and political ideology when reaching out to different groups would be critical, especially given the limited access to high-quality medical care in rural areas.

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