West Texas spans 131,323 square miles and is home to more than 2.8 million people, or 11.2% of the state's population. Of the 108 counties in West Texas, 98 are classified as rural and 54 are sparsely populated with fewer than seven persons per square mile. Only Alaska has more frontier landmass than Texas, and most of the Texas frontier landmass is in West Texas.
The region shares more in common with the Great Plains and southwestern portion of the United States than the remainder of Texas. Unlike East Texas, which has major urban centers and small towns that dot the highway every ten to twelve miles, communities in West Texas are much more isolated. In fact, there are only seven metropolitan centers scattered across the 108 counties of West Texas: Abilene, Amarillo, El Paso, Lubbock, Midland and Odessa, San Angelo and Wichita Falls. These cities serve as the shopping and health care hubs for people living within the region, although access to such services can mean a two-to-four hour drive.
With its unique characteristics, West Texas' location, population demographics, relative isolation, and limited rural health care system make it a microcosm of a number of factors which impact rural America. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center is uniquely centered in the midst of this perfect rural research environment to lead research and outreach efforts that go beyond statistics‒to create real-world rural health solutions.