CFAES Give Today

School of Environment and Natural Resources


Graduate Exit Seminar - Kayla Alvis

Plan to join Kayla Alvis's graduate exit seminar on July 26, 2023, at 1:30 pm via Zoom. Kayla will present, "Rurality, Health, and Disability: A Conceptual Framework and Empirical Study of Ohio."

Abstract: Many rural communities face health disparities due to macro-level trends shaping social drivers of poor health. However, not all rural areas share similar sociodemographic characteristics or healthcare environments, and outcomes may vary between populations within rural places. One group that may experience disproportionately poor health in rural areas is adults with disabilities. Although understanding the associations between place and health for this population is important for achieving health equity, there is limited research on this topic in sociology and public health.
To address this, I develop a conceptual model based on the literatures of social determinants of health in medical sociology and social epidemiology, the sociology of disability and disability health, and rural health to guide research at the intersection of disability, place, and health. I then use the 2019 Ohio Medicaid Assessment Survey, which represents all non-institutionalized Ohioans, to analyze how three health outcomes vary by residence for those without disabilities, non-developmental disabilities, and developmental disabilities.

My findings paint a complex and sometimes contradictory picture of how place and disability are associated with health. However, four key themes stand out. First, rurality, whether or not Appalachian, was generally associated with poorer health outcomes. However, differences were often as pronounced between rural areas as between rural and non-rural. Second, rurality was most consistently associated with poor health for adults with non-developmental disabilities. Third, consistent with previous work, my research indicates that social factors are strongly associated with health outcomes. And finally, socio-demographic factors are also associated with health outcomes for adults with disabilities. My research adds to the literature on place effects and health by investigating how rurality is associated with health outcomes for an often-overlooked population.

Advisor: Dr. Linda Lobao
Co-Advisor: Dr. Kerry Ard