CDC Report Finds Rural Residents Lack Health Care
An annual CDC "snapshot of the nation's health" released today found that Americans living in rural areas often smoke more, lose more teeth as they age and die earlier than suburban and many urban residents, the AP/Nando Times reports. The CDC report found that the health of Americans overall has improved over the past 25 years, including longer life expectancy, improved infant survival, lower smoking rates, less hypertension and lower cholesterol levels. However, those who reside in rural areas -- characterized as counties without cities -- do not receive as much preventive care and medical treatment as other Americans. Researchers identified long distances to medical care and the high rate of poverty among rural residents as "two factors that make it tough to attract medical services." Mary Wakefield, a rural health policy expert at George Mason University, said of rural Americans, "Even if they've got insurance, the biggest worry is: Do they have access to health care?" Hospitals and clinics in rural areas often "have a hard time" attracting and retaining staff, Mark Zellmer of the University of Wisconsin said. HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said that although "geography alone does not determine health status," the CDC report will help policy makers "understand where the most rural and urban communities can target public health efforts to close the gaps." The report also found a "lack of exercise and healthy habits" among rural residents and a "dearth of dentists" in rural areas. According to the report, which used a range of recent health statistics, suburban residents -- those who reside in larger towns on the fringes of the counties that have the largest cities -- "are the healthiest Americans." Americans in urban areas -- large cities with more than one million residents -- are more likely than suburban residents to "die violently," not receive treatment for substance abuse and lack health insurance. The report also found:
- 10.6% of the "wealthiest" residents in rural areas and 10% of urban residents lacked health insurance in 1997 and 1998, compared with about 6.6% of suburban residents.
- 37.6% of rural residents older than age 65 had edentulism, a total loss of their teeth, in 1997 and 1998, compared with about 25.7% in the suburban areas and 26.8 percent in urban areas.
- 18.9% of teenagers in most rural areas smoked in 1999, compared with 11% in urban areas and 15.9% in the suburban areas. Rural adults also smoked at higher rates than urban or suburban adults.
- 46.5% of men and women in most rural areas did not exercise, play sports or pursue "active hobbies" in 1997 and 1998, compared with 40.9% of urban residents and 31.1% of suburban residents.
- The youth death rate and adult death rate in rural areas topped those in urban and suburban areas from 1996 to 1998 (McQueen, AP/Nando Times, 9/10).
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