RURAL HEALTH: Conference Debates Web-based Rural Health Care
At a Harvard University conference on public health and the Internet this week, experts examined the benefits of reaching rural patients through the Internet, the AP/Akron Beacon Journal reports. Dr. Warner Slack, a Harvard professor, said, "We should press on and make the technology less expensive and more available" to rural residents. "Patients do well at managing health problems if they're given information," he added. But there are "significant" obstacles to bringing rural areas into the information age. Al Pheley, director of Ohio University's Center for Appalachian and Rural Health Research, noted that according to the 1990 U.S. Census, 26% of residents in Vinton County, Ohio did not even own a telephone. Katherine Swartz, an associate professor of public health and management at Harvard, said that literacy and education levels also tend to be lower in rural areas. Geographical obstacles also make the prospect of installing communications networks "daunting," Duane DeBrunyne, spokesperson for the Appalachian Regional Commission, said. In McDowell County, W.Va., for example, 80% of the land is "severe mountainous terrain" and "very sparsely populated." He said, "Just getting there is a tremendous challenge" (Lindsay, 6/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.