The Wisconsin Office of Rural Health works to improve the health of rural communities throughout the state. 

Established in 1975 within the University of Wisconsin's School of Medicine and Public Health, the Office of Rural Health provides funding, training and technical assistance to health care providers in rural areas and implements projects designed to improve access to and quality of health services in rural areas.

MPH students work directly with the office's rural health epidemiologist on projects designed to build students’ skills and practical public health experience. Possible projects are identified below but the Office of Rural Health is also interested in students’ project suggestions related to rural health.

Project opportunities

Rural Wisconsin Healthy People 2020 report

The Wisconsin Office of Rural Health is funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, which funded the development of Rural Healthy People 2020, a companion report to Healthy People 2020. The Office of Rural Health desires the creation of a Rural Wisconsin Healthy People 2020 report as a companion to either Rural Healthy People 2020 or DHS' Healthiest Wisconsin 2020. This would involve an assessment of existing reports, collection and analysis of data, and syntheses and writing of recommendations. This would be communicated as an interactive report on the Office of Rural Health website as a "rural health dashboard."

National Rural Health Day efforts

Assist in coordination of National Rural Health Day efforts, which would involve:

  1. Drafting a strategic plan and compiling and creating resources for hospitals and clinics
  2. Developing a couple of surveys and all the accompanying logistics (distribution schedule, database, etc.)

Data visualization and GIS mapping

Clearly communicating information so that is understood and useable is a priority for the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health. Students will have the opportunity to help build the office's collection of data visualization products by creating infographics and maps as well as using Tableau to create data dashboards. Knowledge of and experience with software such as ArcGIS and Tableau is valued but not necessary; students will be trained and mentored as needed.

Assessment of rural health data

An assessment of available rural-specific health data is needed in order to identify the best and most useful indicators of rural health. This project involves a survey of Wisconsin Office of Rural Health constituents, a literature review and a cross-examination of existing reports from multiple datasets.

Analysis of community health needs assessments

With the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, nonprofit hospitals are required to conduct community health needs assessments every three years and adopt an implementation strategy to address the community health needs identified by the assessment. Students will review Wisconsin’s hospitals’ needs assessments for patterns of top health priorities and develop recommendations for Office of Rural Health prioritization and programming.

Evaluation of Office of Rural Health programming

The Wisconsin Office of Rural Health provides many services and funding opportunities for rural communities throughout the state and is interested in evaluating its impact on rural Wisconsin. Students will have the opportunity to design an evaluation plan and develop data collection instruments. Depending on the length of the field experience, students may also analyze survey data and draft a report of evaluation findings.

Previous projects

  • Wisconsin Rural Health Status Dashboard – now outdated, this project could be revived and built on by new students
  • White paper on models of care by dental hygienists in rural communities
  • Feasibility study on methods of promoting a broader scope for primary care provision in rural communities
  • Study of rural internet broadband access and its ramifications on rural healthcare
  • Mapping of geographic-specific healthcare and public health provider data