Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Rural Healthy People 2020 examines top health priorities; access to health care No. 1 concern

A lack of local emergency services in rural areas is costing lives, says a study by Texas A&M University researchers, who found that during an emergency people who live more than 30 minutes from a hospital have a mortality rate of 46 percent, compared to a 21 percent mortality rate for people living within 30 minutes of a facility, Rae Lynn Mitchell reports for the Texas A&M Health Science Center.

The study is part of Rural Healthy People 2020 by the Southwest Rural Health Research Center at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health. Researchers surveyed more than 1,200 rural stakeholders nationwide to determine rural priorities, finding that the closing of rural clinics and hospitals, an increasingly older population, higher poverty levels and less infrastructure support are some of the main challenges facing rural areas. Fifty rural hospitals have closed this decade, and 283 more are at risk of closure.

Researchers found that access to health care was the most frequently identified rural health priority, with emergency services, primary care and insurance generated the most concern, Mitchell writes. Nutrition and weight status was the second highest priority, followed by the challenges rural populations face in preventing and managing diabetes and mental health, mental disorders and substance abuse.

"Also presented in Volume 1 and rounding out the top 10 rural health priorities were heart disease and stroke, physical activity and health, older adults, maternal infant and child health and tobacco use," Mitchell writes. "Volume 2 takes a look at rural health priorities number 11 through 20, which include topics like cancer, oral health, immunizations, public health infrastructure, family planning and injury and violence prevention." (Read more)

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