SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Research has found that of the 14% of Americans who live in a rural area, many struggle with food insecurity and often struggle with barriers when it comes to access to medical care. These problems are not new, but research into some aspects of being a rural resident in America can be limited.

This is visible in many areas of rural health research, however, one, in particular, is the research into LGBTQ+ rural residents in America. Carrie Henning-Smith and the rest of her team at the University of Minnesota’s Rural Health Research Center (RHRC) have been working to change that.

“We’ve been doing a really broad look into LGBTQ+ health in rural areas,” She said in an interview. “There has been research done into this but it’s limited so there was just a lot of information that is needed.”

This information can be used to inform policies and programs that will focus on the specific health needs of that community.

A September 2022 policy brief that was released by the RHRC found that an estimated 3-5% of rural residents are LGBTQ+.

Henning-Smith explained that the biggest health inequities existed at the intersection of rurality and those who are LGBTQ+.

“We found that rural LGBTQ+ individuals report worse health: physical health, mental health,” she said.

They also reported worse access to care and social well-being. This was compared to cisgender and heterosexual rural residents as well as urban residents of any gender identity or sexual orientation.

That being said, Henning-Smith thinks that there’s a lot of reason to be hopeful, it’s not all doom and gloom.

“We also found that there’s really good work happening,” Henning-Smith explained. “We found that there are programs that are working very hard and doing very good work to improve health and access to healthcare for LGBTQ+ folks in rural areas.”

Henning-Smith said that there is still more work to be done, in spite of the programs and individuals trying to make a difference through research and community efforts. She pointed to the U.S. Trans Survey which will be launched Oct. 19 as an example of needed research for the community.

You can learn more about the research that is being done through the RHRC by clicking or tapping on the link here.