• access;
  • Appalachia;
  • cost;
  • dental and visual services;
  • health behaviors;
  • population-based approach;
  • rural

Abstract  The health status of people who live in the rural, coal-producing counties of southwest Virginia remains problematic despite an apparent high primary care provider-to-population threshold. This descriptive exploratory study surveyed 922 households representing 2,188 people, with regard to the availability, need, and access to health care services. Findings indicated a population who had a greater morbidity for chronic illnesses such as heart disease and hypertension than the rest of the state, a large number of people without health and prescription coverage, and an overall perception of fair-to-poor health status. Findings also indicated a substantial proportion of the population who were in need of dental and visual care and general preventive services and those who were dealing with depression at home without outside intervention. One disturbing finding was the large number of people who shared prescriptive medications with family and friends. The Community As Partner Model might be used by community health nurses in this region to help structure interventions. Overall findings suggest a need for interventions aimed at screening for depression, managing prescriptive medications, and identification of low-cost and free preventive, dental, and visual care services.