Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)


Public Policy and Administration

Committee Chairperson

Kristen Crossney, PhD

Committee Member

Erin Knight, PhD

Committee Member

Matin Katirai, PhD


This dissertation investigates the relationship between land use policies and health equity in rural American counties. Utilizing a qualitative case study approach, the research scrutinizes eight counties across four states, examining publicly available data such as census details, land use policy documents, community health reports, and planning documents. The study is guided by two main research questions: 1) Are there land use policies in rural America that align with the creation of health equitable communities? and 2) Do health equitable communities within rural America feature equity in housing stock? The results from the thematic coding and content analysis of ninety-six documents revealed a nuanced relationship between land use policies and health equity. Counties with higher health equity rankings demonstrated more generalized land use policies. In contrast, counties with lower health equity rankings showed a lack of current Community Health Needs Assessments or Health Improvement Plans and less diversity in housing policies, potentially exacerbating health disparities. The dissertation concludes that while some rural counties exhibit land use policies supportive of health equity, there is significant variability across different communities. The findings suggest that targeted and inclusive land use planning could enhance health equity, particularly in counties with lower health rankings. This research underscores the need for policy reforms integrating health equity considerations into land use planning, offering potential pathways for future work to bridge the gap between land use policies and health equity in rural America.