Rural areas (referred to as "the countryside") are large and isolated areas of an open country (in reference to open fields and not forests, etc.), often with low population density. It should be noted that the terms "countryside" and "rural areas" are NOT synonyms. See the disambiguation page for countryside for alternate definitions. In particular, a "countryside" refers to rural areas that are OPEN. A forest, wetlands, etc. with a low population density is NOT a countryside.
About 91 percent of the rural population now earn salaried incomes, often in urban areas. The 10 percent who still produce resources generate 20 percent of the world’s coal, copper, and oil; 10 percent of its wheat, 20 percent of its meat, and 50 percent of its corn. The efficiency of these farms is due in large part to the commercialization of the farming industry, and not single family operations.
National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) revised its definition of rural schools in 2006 after working with the Census Bureau to create a new locale classification system to capitalize on improved geocoding technology and the 2000 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) definitions of metro areas that rely less on population size and county boundaries than proximity of an address to an urbanized area. The new classification system has four major local categories— city, suburban, town, and rural —each of which is subdivided into three subcategories. Cities and suburbs are subdivided into the categories small, midsize, or large; towns and rural areas are subdivided by their proximity to an urbanized area into the categories fringe, distant, or remote. These twelve categories are based on several key concepts that Census uses to define an area's urbanicity: principal city, urbanized area, and urban cluster. Rural areas are designated by census as those areas that do not lie inside an urbanized area or urban cluster. NCES has classified all schools into one of these twelve categories based on schools' actual addresses and their corresponding coordinates of latitude and longitude. Not only does this mean that the location of any school can be identified precisely, but also that distance measures can be used to identify town and rural subtypes.”
Rural health definitions can be different for establishing underserved areas or health care accessibility in rural areas of the United States. According to the handbook, Definitions of Rural: A Handbook for Health Policy Makers and Researchers, “Residents of metropolitan counties are generally thought to have easy access to the relatively concentrated health services of the county’s central areas. However, some metropolitan counties are so large that they contain small towns and rural, sparsely populated areas that are isolated from these central clusters and their corresponding health services by physical barriers.” To address this type of rural area, “Harold Goldsmith, Dena Puskin, and Dianne Stiles (1992) described a methodology to identify small towns and rural areas within large metropolitan counties (LMCs) that were isolated from central areas by distance or other physical features.” This became the Goldsmith Modification definition of rural. “The Goldsmith Modification has been useful for expanding the eligibility for federal programs that assist rural populations—to include the isolated rural populations of large metropolitan counties.”
In the UK, "rural" is defined by the government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), using population data from the latest census, such as the United Kingdom Census 2001. These definitions have various grades, but the upper point is any local government area with less than 26% of its population living in a market town ("market town" being defined as any settlement which has permission to hold a street market).
An NHS patient is defined as rural if they live more than 5 km (3.1 mi) from either a doctor or a dispensing chemist. This is important for defining whether the patient is expected to collect their own medicines. While doctors' surgeries in towns will not have a dispensing chemist, instead expecting patients to use a high-street chemist to purchase their prescription medicines, in rural village surgeries, an NHS dispensary will be built into the same building (and indeed most rural patients will have never seen a paper prescription, since the prescriptions are usually sent via computer network direct to a label printer in the dispensary).
In Australia rural health has been influenced issues around getting medical staff to stay in remote outback areas. The state of Queensland has used a unique model of nursing care in rural and remote "outback " hospitals. A RIPRN is a Registered Nurse that often works where there is limited medical coverage. They offer a greater diversity of skills and knowledge than other rural RNs. In many cases functioning between the traditional level of RN and Medical Doctor.
Rural areas are areas which are not towns or cities. They are often farming or agricultural areas. These areas are sometimes called "the country" or "countryside". People who live "in the country" often live in small villages, but they might also live somewhere where there are no other houses nearby.