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Health disparities and health inequities disproportionately impact South Dakota’s vulnerable populations. South Dakota’s rural communities are not immune to the impact of health disparities and see higher rates of chronic disease and associated risk factors, shaped in part by social and economic factors. While not solely responsible, the state’s public health workforce is uniquely qualified to take the lead in reducing health disparities and health inequities. Public health professionals role in improving health equity is shaped by multiple levels of influence. However, little is known about the public health workforce, including proficiency in health equity skills and multiple influences on action taken to improve health equity. To explore this gap in research, an explanatory sequential dissertation research study was conducted to examine public health professionals perceptions of their skills to improve health equity as well as how can rural public health professionals improve health equity. A cross-sectional study design was used to collect quantitative data from public health professionals who work in South Dakota through a survey. An emerging cross-sectional design was used to collect qualitative data from public health professionals who practice in rural South Dakota communities through key informant interviews. Professionals who practice at least one of the ten essential public health services, speak English, practice in South Dakota, and are 18 years or older were eligible to participate. An overall linear regression model is being used to investigate the relationships between perceived health equity skills and predictive variables. Within-case content analysis is being used to analyze key informant interviews and identify themes regarding how rural public health professionals can improve health equity. Results from this study will identify gaps in research in public health’s role in improving health equity in rural communities and inform broad public health workforce development and practice.

First Advisor

DenYelle Kenyon

Research Area

Interdisciplinary Health