202815 Conceptualization and measurement of the neighborhood in rural locales: A systematic review

Wednesday, November 11, 2009: 8:45 AM

Molly M. De Marco, PhD, MPH , Center for Health Promotion & Disease Prevention, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Allison C. De Marco, PhD, MSW , Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, NC
Interest in the link between neighborhood characteristics and individual health has increased in recent years. We now know that neighborhood conditions, such as poverty and deprivation, negatively impact resident well-being. However, most of the work on neighborhood effects has been conducted in urban settings; less is known about these processes in rural communities. Neighborhood conceptualizations, such as U.S. Census tracts, are standard in the urban neighborhood effects literature. Yet, rural neighborhoods differ from urban ones making it unclear whether these conceptualizations fit the rural context. In this systematic review, we sought to summarize how researchers have conceptualized and measured rural neighborhoods. Methods: Keyword searches using keywords such as rural neighborhood, neighborhood conceptualization, community, and rural community were performed in a variety of databases to compile a list of all relevant peer-reviewed articles. After title, abstract, and full-text examination, 19 articles fit the review criteria. Results: We found that researchers used five different neighborhood conceptualizations when conducting rural neighborhood effects research. These included administrative units, distance from home, local-actor mapped regions, town segments, and non-geographical self-definitions. Each conceptualization has its strengths and drawbacks, which will be discussed in detail. Conclusions: The choice of type of rural neighborhood conceptualization to use may depend on the nature of the research being conducted. Still, the lack of a definitive answer as to the optimal conceptualization to use when studying neighborhood effects in rural areas suggests the need for additional data on how rural residents define their neighborhoods.

Learning Objectives:
1. Discuss the link between neighborhood conditions and the health of residents. 2. List the five neighborhood conceptualizations that have been used when examining neighborhood effects in rural communities. 3. Describe the strengths and drawbacks of each neighborhood conceptualization used in rural communities.

Keywords: Rural Communities, Community Planning

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have conducted research in rural communities and with rural residents. I have also conducted research on how neighborhood characteristics affect health.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.