Friday, July 24, 2020

Study shows disparities that hurt rural children's health

Though rural living offers some benefits to health, such as increased community cohesion, many of the approximately 1 million infants and toddlers living in the rural U.S. face challenges that can hurt their health and stymie their development, Jessie Laurore, Gayane Baziyants, and Sarah Daily report for Child Trends.

The brief relies on national- and state-level data compiled by the State of Babies Yearbook 2020, which in turn gets its data from national data sets such as the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey and the National Survey of Children's Health. Click here for state-level data about race, poverty, family structure, rurality, and more for infants and toddlers in each state.

Some key takeaways from the Child Trends report:

  • Rural ares have higher infant mortality and preterm birth rates.
  • Low birth weight is a significant challenge in rural areas for some states, more so than in urban areas.
  • Rural infants are less likely to be breastfed. 
  • Rural mothers are less likely receive timely prenatal care and more likely to give birth outside of the hospital. 
  • Rural infants and toddlers are less likely to receive preventative medical or dental care and less likely to receive recommended vaccines.
  • Rural infants and toddlers in low-income families are less likely to have health insurance than their urban counterparts.
The report recommends that lawmakers identify any existing barriers that rural families may face in enrolling their children in their state's Children's Health Insurance Program. CHIP covers families that make too much to qualify for Medicaid but don't earn enough to afford private health insurance. Medicaid and CHIP, which cover more than one-third of children in the U.S., can help ensure more children in rural areas can access health care, but rural families are less likely to be enrolled in CHIP.

The report also advocates options like mobile health clinics and telemedicine to increase rural access to health care. It also recommends promoting timely vaccinations for rural children and finding ways to pay for it using existing programs.

They also recommend that states identify whether there are gaps in how existing in-home visiting support programs serve rural children and families and, if so, find ways to bridge that gap.

Finally, the report recommends that states work to increase rural prenatal care by working with community hospitals, doulas, birthing centers, and mobile health clinics.

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