People in rural areas who place heavy importance on self-reliance and define health by their ability to work might take the COVID-19 pandemic less seriously, says Pamela Stewart Fahs, professor and expert in rural nursing at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

“Traditionally, rural dwellers have defined health as the ability to work or function. This remains true in certain rural populations including those that are older, male or live in areas of extractive industries (e.g. agriculture, mining, forestry, and fishing),” says Fahs. “In this group, many define their selves around their ability to work and will place the need to work higher than the need for health care, unless it is a major emergency or children are at a high risk. There is less emphasis on prevention in rural populations.

Self-reliance often means rural citizens believe strongly that they can take care of themselves and family without outside interference.

“Some people may think ‘it can’t happen here,’ when in fact a disease as contagious as COVID-19 will most likely be felt everywhere,” says Fahs. “Some places may be later in the cycle, and although one would think this gives an area more time to prepare; in rural areas where access to health care is already limited, the system may be over-run sooner after the presence of the virus is known.”   

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