Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Report: Environment impacts health of rural children more than it does urban ones

Rural children are more likely than their urban peers to experience health problems based on "their environment, their socioeconomic status, their own and their families’ health behaviors, and their access to quality clinical care," says a report by the Department of Health and Human Services. The research, which included samplings of journal publications, found that rural children are more likely to be obese and live with someone who smokes.

Almost one in four rural children ages 4 to 17 has the potential for a mental health problem, but as many as 80 percent of those children live in areas that lack services, states the report. Another problem is access to dental care, with about 75 percent of areas with inadequate dental care located in rural areas. Rural women also lack access to prenatal and postnatal care. Rural counties average 2 obstetricians per every 1,000 women, compared to 35 obstetricians per every 1,000 women in urban areas. Some rural areas also lack hospitals with obstetric services. The report also looked at the effects of asthma on children in rural and urban areas.

The report offers suggestions to break down barriers for healthy living for rural children. It suggests that communities, schools and child care facilities can encourage healthier eating and increased physical activity through education and supportive environments. Telehealth and school-based health centers can provide greater access to behavioral health services. Oral health in rural children can be improved by increasing access to preventive treatments, such as by changing Medicaid reimbursement policies to increase the number of providers. Greater access to prenatal and postnatal can be increased through home visiting programs and telemedicine. Also, school and home-based programs can help address asthma.

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