Category Archives: News

RTC:Rural study finds longstanding interpretation of disability data incomplete

Researchers with RTC:Rural have shown that the standardized disability questions used by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services identify two distinct groups of people with disabilities: those with permanent disability and those with temporary disability. Their findings were published today in the American Journal of Public Health: click here to read the full journal article.

Man with cane walking in front of farm

Researchers at RTC:Rural have shown that the standardized disability questions used by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services identify two distinct groups of people with disabilities: those with permanent disability and those with temporary disability.

The findings contradict the long-standing assumption by researchers and policymakers who use HHS disability data that it represents only people with long-term disabilities. The RTC:Rural study clarifies the survey collects information from two important subgroups: those with permanent disability, and those experiencing a temporary disability at the time of the survey.

The title of the paper is “Disability Items from the Current Population Survey (2008-2015) and Permanent Versus Temporary Disability Status.” Coauthors on the study include Bryce Ward, associate director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at UM; RTC:Rural research associates Andrew Myers and Jennifer Wong; and Craig Ravesloot, RTC:Rural director.

“Our findings suggest that the current understanding of the entire population of people with disabilities based on HHS data is incomplete, because we have not yet accurately described the characteristics and status of these two subgroups,” said Ravesloot. “This can potentially have huge implications in public health policies.”

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Six charts that illustrate the divide between rural and urban America

RTC:Rural is proud that our researchers were invited to contribute to this article, which was published in The Conversation on March 17, 2017, and subsequently on PBS News, US News & World Report, and Salon.


Authors: Brian Thiede, Pennsylvania State University; Lillie Greiman, The University of Montana; Stephan Weiler, Colorado State University; Steven C. Beda, University of Oregon, and Tessa Conroy, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Editor’s note: We’ve all heard of the great divide between life in rural and urban America. But what are the factors that contribute to these differences? We asked sociologists, economists, geographers and historians to describe the divide from different angles. The data paint a richer and sometimes surprising picture of the U.S. today. The Conversation

1. Poverty is higher in rural areas

Discussions of poverty in the United States often mistakenly focus on urban areas. While urban poverty is a unique challenge, rates of poverty have historically been higher in rural than urban areas. In fact, levels of rural poverty were often double those in urban areas throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

While these rural-urban gaps have diminished markedly, substantial differences persist. In 2015, 16.7 percent of the rural population was poor, compared with 13.0 percent of the urban population overall – and 10.8 percent among those living in suburban areas outside of principal cities.

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New tool available to access disability data

Finding big data about rural America is challenging. Finding big data about disability in rural America can seem impossible. Meanwhile, access to current information about disability in rural areas is important as these areas consistently experience higher disability rates than their urban counterparts.

Disability Counts logoThe Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities (RTC:Rural) recently re-launched the Disability Counts Data Finder, an online tool that allows users to easily access disability data for every county in the United States and Puerto Rico. Using a simple interface, users select their state and counties of interest, and generate a table with population estimates, disability rates, margins of error, and rural/urban classifications.

Disability Counts uses the most recent 5-year American Community Survey data and the 2015 Office of Management and Budget Metropolitan-Micropolitan Statistical Areas delineation files. These datasets were specifically chosen so that Disability Counts could provide insight into the county’s rural status alongside the disability rate, clearly showing the correlation between disability rates and rural areas. We have found that this information is particularly sought after by advocates and policymakers.

Map of disability rates by county

Disability rates by county across the United States – rural counties consistently show higher disability rates than their urban counterparts.

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RTC:Rural researchers featured in The Conversation article highlighting rural/urban divide

Headshots of the RTC:Rural researchers

Lillie Greiman, Andrew Myers and Christiane von Reichert

We are proud that the feature article of today’s issue of The Conversation newsletter includes the work of RTC:Rural’s geography project.

Lillie Greiman, M.A., and Andrew Myers, M.A., RTC:Rural Research Associates, with Christiane von Reichert, Ph.D., Professor of Geography at the University of Montana, contributed to an article about the rural/urban divide that was recently published on The Conversation.

Titled “Six charts that illustrate the divide between rural and urban America,” the article is a collaboration among the UM researchers and sociologists, economists, and historians at universities around the country. The article explores factors that contribute to the differences between life in rural and urban areas.

Greiman, Myers, and von Reichert contributed the section about disability rates across the country, based on their previous research and analysis of the most recent American Community Survey data.

The Conversation is an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community. It is a foundation-supported news source with a mission to help professors get high-quality research into the public sphere.

New Online Training Platform Enhances Living Well with a Disability Program

Screenshot of new Living Well with a Disability websiteRTC:Rural is thrilled to announce an exciting update to the Living Well with a Disability Program with a new online Facilitator Training. The new program updates  make it easier for organizations to train staff and peers, prepare workshop materials, and receive technical support from both RTC:Rural and fellow Living Well with a Disability Program Providers.

After several months of planning, collaboration, and development with key stakeholders, skilled professionals, and multi-media experts, we are proud to share the beautiful new online learning experience to continue our long history of providing this evidence-based health promotion program for people with disabilities. Continue reading

Opportunity to Influence the Future Plan of Disability Research and Development

Four people in a group talk at the 2016 APRIL conference. In late 2016, rural disability stakeholders had the opportunity to provide comment and personal testimony to influence the focus of the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research’s (NIDILRR) 2017-2023 Long Range Plan. RTC:Rural engaged with stakeholders at the 2016 Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) conference in October to help them share their comments with NIDILRR about what is important to them from the rural disability perspective. We encourage our fellow stakeholders to, again, take the opportunity to review NIDILRR’s 2017-2023 Long Range Plan to provide more input on the focus on NIDILRR’s research for the next five years.

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RTC Director of Employment Research publishes paper on self-employment

Dr. Catherine Ipsen headshot

Dr. Catherine Ipsen, Rural Institute Associate Director and RTC:Rural Employment Project Director

Dr. Catherine Ipsen’s paper “Rural and urban vocational rehabilitation self-employment outcomes” was published in the January 2017 issue of the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Dr. Ipsen is the Associate Director for the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities and the Director of Rural Employment Research at RTC:Rural. Dr. Ipsen co-authored the paper with Dr. Grant Swicegood, Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Central Methodist University.

The paper examines self-employment rates among vocational rehabilitation (VR) consumers in rural versus urban areas, noting that rates are higher in rural areas.

Dr. Ipsen and Swicegood report that VR consumers who are self-employed work fewer hours per week and earn more than those in competitive job placements. In spite of this, the study found that many VR agencies do not promote self-employment to their clients, for a variety of reasons.

Man working at a desk

Self-employment is a viable option for people with disabilities, especially in rural communities, though many VR agencies do not promote self-employment to their clients, for a variety of reasons.

Drs. Ipsen and Swicegood conclude that self-employment is a viable option for people with disabilities, especially in rural communities.

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RTC:Rural to present research at NARRTC 2017 “Taking Charge of Change”

RTC:Rural staff member presenting at a conference

RTC:Rural researcher presenting at a conference

In April 2017, RTC:Rural researchers will present three current research projects at the 2017 NARRTC conference, to be held this year in Alexandria, Virginia.

This conference provides an annual opportunity for grantees of the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) to come together and share their latest research findings.  Training and knowledge translation methodologies and results are also shared. This year’s theme is “Taking Charge of Change.”

Projects presented aim to enhance interventions, programs or systems to improve the lives of people with disabilities. These research projects fall into the priority categories of Community Participation & Independent Living, Employment & Vocational Rehabilitation, Health & Wellness, and Knowledge Translation.

RTC:Rural is on the agenda with two presentations and one poster:

1. Using Participatory Curriculum Development as an Integrated Knowledge Translation Strategy (Presentation)

Authors: Dr. Craig Ravesloot, Ph.D., Tracy Boehm Barrett, M.P.H., Tannis Hargrove, M.S., Mary Olson, MSW

Self-management and health promotion remain a significant challenge for people with disabilities living in rural areas. Online learning is a promising avenue to make evidence-based programs available to people, yet the best approaches to implementing online content for rural people with disabilities are unknown.

To establish these best approaches, RTC:Rural is partnering with stakeholders from the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) and eight Centers for Independent Living across the country to develop two health promotion programs that blend online and face-to-face learning. These programs are based on the Living Well with a Disability program. Continue reading

Living Well with a Disability featured in CDC awareness campaign

:ogo for Living Well with a DisabilityLogo for Self Management Education programWe are honored to have our Living Well with a Disability (LWD) program featured in a targeted awareness campaign sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The six-month campaign Self-Management Education: Learn More. Feel Better. is being conducted in Wisconsin to promote self-management education (SME) as a tool to manage chronic health conditions.

Self-management education has been proven to reduce symptoms of chronic conditions and to improve overall quality of life. Research by RTC:Rural suggests that implementing SME programs, specifically LWD, could save millions of dollars in Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance costs and is a promising intervention that has demonstrated improvements in health-related quality of life and health care use. However, many of the public are unaware of available SME programs, and the CDC’s Learn More. Feel Better. campaign aims to bridge this information gap.

According to 2014 American Community Survey data, the rate of disability across the United States is 12.4%. In rural America, that percentage increases to 17.7%. Overall, people living in rural areas are more likely to be unemployed, living in poverty, elderly, or experience a disability, and as a result are more likely to qualify for Medicare/Medicaid.

LWD is one of the six SME programs featured on the Disability-Specific SME Programs campaign website. The CDC has been involved with LWD since its initial development at RTC:Rural in 1987, and has continued to provide funding, support, and promotion of the program at various levels throughout the years. Most recently, RTC:Rural received funding to continue the LWD Program’s history of research and development under a five year grant to translate it into a state-of-the-art online health promotion curriculum. This grant funding is provided by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) within the Administration for Community Living, at the US Department of Health and Human Services.

LWD is a 10 week peer-facilitated workshop focusing on the health-management needs of people with disabilities, and is currently offered in 46 states by over 250 Centers for Independent Living and internationally. Continue reading

RTC:Rural team celebrates growth with four new associates

January is almost over, but we’re still celebrating the New Year—and the new RTC:Rural staff who have joined us in the last few months. Since the Fall of 2016, the RTC:Rural staff has grown by 31%  with the addition of four new associate positions!

Meet the new RTC:Rural staff:

RTC:Rural Training Associate Maggie Lawrence in the woods with her dogs

Maggie Lawrence

Maggie Lawrence, Training Associate

Maggie is originally from Los Angeles, CA. She has a BA in Women’s and Gender Studies from UC Santa Cruz and an MA in Library and Information Science from San Jose State University. Maggie has worked as an editor, a community information and referral specialist, a research librarian, and has experience in women’s and LGBTIQ rights advocacy. She is interested in issues of equal access and community empowerment.
Kerry Morse

Kerry Morse

Kerry Morse, Communications Associate

Kerry’s role on the knowledge translation team at RTC:Rural includes managing electronic media, and creating communications strategies and products to reach our diverse audiences. Kerry received her B.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, and brings over a decade of experience conducting cause-driven outreach, education, communications and project management in rural areas. Prior to joining the Rural Institute in 2016, she worked for conservation focused nonprofits in Montana and California.
Rayna Sage

Rayna Sage

Rayna Sage, Research Associate

Rayna is a rural sociologist and began working with RTC: Rural in November of 2016. While attending Washington State University she earned her M.A. in Human Development in 2003 and her Ph.D. in Sociology in 2012. Between these two degrees she worked as a home visiting social worker for rural low-income families with small children. Utilizing primarily qualitative methods, Dr. Sage conducts her research to study and combat gender and economic inequality and enhance the vitality of rural labor markets and community support systems.
Lauren Smith holding a woodpecker

Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith, Knowledge Translation Associate

Lauren has a B.A. in both English and zoology from Ohio Wesleyan University, and a Master’s of Science in Environmental Studies with a writing focus from the University of Montana. Lauren has worked as a field biologist across North America, handling birds ranging from rufous hummingbirds to trumpeter swans. She has also been an environmental educator, writer, and editor. She believes that science communication is a vital part of all research, and works with the rest of the Knowledge Translation team to communicate the research findings of the RTC:Rural to a variety of audiences.

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