Unincorporated Health: Understanding Residents' Perspectives on Factors Impacting Their Health and Emergent Place-Based Solutions

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Increased mortality rates and decreased life expectancy in the United States are associated with rurality, even after adjusting for poverty. In unincorporated rural communities, high population density may compound the negative health impact of the upstream factors associated with rurality, yet little is known about how this context contributes to residents' health. We conducted nine focus groups with youth and adults from March-July 2017 in two Texas unincorporated rural communities. Using ecosocial theory and applied thematic analysis for focus groups, we investigated social, political, and historical factors that affect health. We identified two primary themes: upstream barriers to community health and K-12 schools as facilitators of community health. K-12 schools, and full-service community schools, in particular, may have an important role in closing the rural-urban health gap, even in the context of structural constraints associated with unincorporated rural status.

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Social work in public health

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