Rural health care faces challenges in chronic care and access

Chronic conditions, including hypertension, diabetes and obesity, are more prevalent in rural areas of the United States, according to a report by the United Health Center for Health Reform and Modernization.

 Key findings from the report:

  • People who lived in rural areas in the South reported obesity, smoking and physical inactivity more than other areas in the country.
  • In rural areas, 31% of the population reported either Medicare or Medicaid as their primary source of coverage compared to 25% in urban areas.
  • Rural Americans are slightly more likely to be uninsured than those in metropolitan areas (20 %  of rural Americans compared to 18% of urban).
  • Access to pharmacies is a challenge for many rural communities, for some, the distance between pharmacies is greater than 10 miles.
  • Specialty care is not widely available in rural areas.
  • Rural residents rated the quality of their health care lower than urban dwellers

The authors suggest that possible strategies to improve rural health care may include telemedicine and partnerships with local community-based organizations to promote chronic health programs.  The report was compiled from surveys of physicians and consumers throughout the United States.

(Sources: The Advisory Board Daily Briefing, http://advisory.com, July 28, 2011; United Health Center for Health Reform and Modernization, http://www.unitedhealthgroup.com, July 2011)