How Can We Strengthen Rural Opportunities in K-16 Education to Promote Primary Care Health Careers?

Health career pathway programs can promote and prepare rural students in grades kindergarten through college (K–16) for health careers, but little is known about the prevalence and characteristics of these programs in the U.S. This mixed-methods study provides a baseline description of health career pathway programs for rural K–16 students through a scoping review, survey, and semi-structured interviews with program directors. Among 165 programs responding to the survey, motivational or health career awareness (95.1%), health care exposure (92.0%), and mentorship (70.2%) were the most commonly used strategies. About one-third of programs (34.6%) had discontinued at least one strategy in the past three years, often due to loss of funding or a change in priorities. While reported outcomes suggested positive program effects, evaluations lacked rigor to draw definitive conclusions about program success. This study serves to generate hypotheses for further studies examining characteristics of student participants, program strategies and activities, and outcome measurement for health career pathway programs.

Jopson AD, Pollack SW, Schmitz DF, Thompson MJ, Harris D, Bateman M, Evans DV, Patterson DG. Promoting health careers among rural K–16 students: A mixed-method study to describe pathway programs. J Health Care Poor Underserved. 2020;31(5):223-259.
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For more information contact: Andrew Jopson, MPH

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