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The Need For Greater Access to Health Care in Rural Communities

The evolution of health care has come a long way over the years with advancements in the research of treatments, medications and diseases. While the innovations in medical care have vastly improved, populations in rural areas lack the access to the quality of care that is available in more developed communities.

Access to exceptional health care is a concern for most Americans and with the majority of the population living in urban areas, the rural communities in the U.S. can easily be overlooked. Due to an alarming lack of qualified health care professionals, many of these rural communities survive without proper medical care. Roughly 19% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, but only 10% of medical professionals practice in these areas.

Economic Impact on Rural Health care

According to a study by the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative, 14% of the population in rural areas lives below the poverty line, with 24% of rural children living in poverty. Additionally, rural areas are typically made up of small businesses, which often face barriers to offering health insurance to their employees. Of those businesses that are able to offer insurance, employees are faced with costly, high deductible plans. Given the reduced access to private insurance, the majority of the rural population must rely on public assistance, more so than their urban counterparts. Food Assistance programs, for example, is one of the common forms of financial help available in rural areas.

Higher Risks Due to Greater Abuse

Health risks tend to be higher for those living in rural areas than urban in settings, and substance abuse is one of the alarming risks associated with these communities. Alcohol abuse is one of the leading issues, especially among minors. The rate of DUI arrests is greater in rural areas with 40% of rural teenage drivers admitting to using alcohol while driving. In urban areas, only 25% of teenage drivers confess to using alcohol while driving. Coupled with this data, abuse of non-heroin opiates and methamphetamines are also higher in rural areas compared to their urban counterparts.

Transportation Creates a Struggle for Care

Generally, residents of rural communities experience a harder time trying to get to areas with better health care than the care found in their community. In fact, in a survey conducted in 2010, titled “Transportation, Distance and Health Care Utilization for Older Adults in Rural and Small Urban Areas”, some of the participants reported traveling more than 100 miles for health care. Coupled with this data, the study highlights that individuals who must travel more than 10 miles for health care are less likely to actively seek treatment than those with less distance to travel. Additionally, the cost of travel is a deterring factor for some, and unlike those in rural areas, public transpiration isn’t always readily available or a convenient option.

While distance not only plays a part on an individual’s commute, 60% of rural accidents end in death or life-altering injuries. One-third of all car accidents occur in rural areas, and two-thirds of all fatalities from those accidents happen in rural areas. This number is reduced to 48% in urban communities. Much of this difference is due to the fact that emergency response vehicles are required to travel a greater distance than in urban settings, which increases the emergency response time.

Become Part of the Solution

Individuals who have earned an advanced degree, such as a Master of Healthcare Administration, are prepared to address complex health care concerns – especially those in rural areas and underserved populations. The online Master’s in Healthcare Administration program at The University of Scranton teaches students to navigate through tough economic situations and to ensure that proper care is accessible to any individual regardless of their standing.

Become a leader in your community; learn more about The University of Scranton’s online Master of Health Administration degree program. Request more information or call (866) 373.9547 to speak with a Program Manager.