Monday, May 21, 2012

The numbers tell the stories: Rural trauma is more likely fatal, and rural health has chronic problems

Here are stories that can be told in almost any state, just with different data: Georgia Rural Health Association Executive Director Matt Caseman writes that you are more likely to die if you suffer a traumatic injury in rural Georgia than if it's in a metropolitan area. He says 67 of Georgia's 159 counties do not have a surgeon, and 115 do not have a neurologist.

"More than 1 million Georgians live at least 50 miles from a Level 1 trauma center — the kind that handles the most serious cases. That distance makes it virtually impossible to get them to such a facility within the 'golden hour' — the period after a major trauma accident when emergency responders have the greatest chance to save a life," Caseman writes for Georgia's Saporta Report. "In metro Atlanta, there’s one fatality in every 339 accidents. In rural Georgia, it’s one fatality in every 74 accidents."

More broadly, Caseman also notes that 65 Georgia counties don't have a pediatrician, 68 don't have a gynecologist, and rural Georgians are more likely to be uninsured or under-insured and suffer from heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer. He explains that rural populations are older, so they have greater health care needs, and rural Georgians are more likely self-employed, so they pay more for health insurance and don't go to the doctor so often. And more rural Georgians are on Medicaid.

Caseman has counterparts in every state, and they are members of the National Rural Health Association. All are good sources of information about rural health; so is the federal Office of Rural Health Policy.

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