|Belle, Mo. (Sperling's Best Places map)|
In this summer's "Life in Rural America" survey by NPR, Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 58 percent of rural Americans polled said they want outside help with community problems. The two biggest problems most rural areas face are economic stagnation and drugs like opioids and methamphetamines, Morris reports.
Belle, Missouri, for example, has been struggling since the local shoe factory closed decades ago. The town of 1,500 increasingly relies on grants to pay for basic maintenance but that money is hard to obtain. And drugs--and drug-related crime--are also hurting the town. But reporter Roxie Murphy of the local Maries County Advocate calls Belle a "proud town" that isn't giving up, Morris reports. That's consistent with the survey's results too.
"It is not all a world of hopelessness, as many others have described," said Robert Blendon, professor of health policy and political analysis at Harvard. "There's a great deal of optimism that 'we can deal with these issues if we can get outside help.'"