CDC Urges Improved Health Care for Rural Americans

JANUARY 16, 2017
Jennifer Barrett, Assistant Editor

At the same time that provider status legislation for pharmacists in rural communities was reintroduced into the Senate, the CDC released a study that highlights the need to improve health care access in these areas. The data presented in the report demonstrate the need to narrow the mortality gap between patients in rural areas and their urban counterparts.
 
According to the report, Americans living in rural areas are more likely to die from the 5 leading causes of death than those living in urban communities. In 2014, deaths among rural Americans were potentially preventable, including 25,000 from heart disease, 19,000 from cancer, 12,000 from unintentional injuries, 11,000 from chronic lower respiratory disease, and 4,000 from stroke.
 
The CDC’s findings illustrate significant gaps in mortality and access to health care that impact rural communities, and with more rural hospitals closing in recent years, there has been a decline in available health services to this population. Individuals must often travel distances to see a physician, which can hamper patients’ health care efforts. If the provider status legislation is passed, the option to receive care from an accessible pharmacist may be crucial in serving better health care to these communities.  
 
About 15% of the Americans reside in rural areas. Several factors are likely to contribute to a higher risk of death in these communities, such as a higher rate of older and sicker residents and higher rates of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity. Rural residents also are more likely to be impoverished, and have less access to health care and health insurance.
 
The CDC offers recommendations to help close the gap in rural areas. Health care providers can: 
  • Screen patients for high blood pressure and make control a quality improvement goal.
  • Increase cancer prevention and early detections.
  • Encourage physical activity and healthy eating.
  • Promote smoking cessation.
  • Promote motor vehicle safety.
  • Engage in safer prescribing of opioids for pain. 
 
Reference
 
Rural Americans at higher risk of death from five leading causes [news release]. CDC Website. . Accessed Jan. 16, 2017. 
 

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