Dr. Michael Baker

Dr. Michael Baker, director of Jefferson County Public Health.

Usually, when someone thinks about rural and rural communities, visions of open fields, farmlands, fresh air, and being at one with nature come to mind. It is this very perception that brings many new individuals and families to rural communities with the goal of escaping the rate race and chaos of city life. Unfortunately, the challenges, barriers, and limited resources seen in many rural communities (like ours) can make just living here “unhealthy. In fact, in health literature and research, there are 3 words typically used to describe rural communities: poorer, older, and sicker.

No two rural communities are the same, so no two rural communities face the same challenges. Just deciding what a rural community is can be difficult as well. It is estimated that the government uses more than 15 different definitions of “rural” while universities and researcher have over 30 working definitions that are often used to help establish services or assign resources. In Oregon, it’s actually pretty easy to determine what is rural and what is not. If you don’t live in the metro areas of Portland, Salem, Corvallis, Eugene, Medford, or Bend, then you are a rural Oregonian.