Maggie Elehwany, vice president of government affairs and policy for the non-profit National Rural Health Association, said she was not surprised to see that rural counties tended to have poorer overall health.
"We believe there are greater health disparities in rural counties," Elehwany said. "It's an older population per capita, a sicker population per capita, which means they have more heart disease and diabetes, and it's a poorer population per capita, which means they are more dependent on state and federal programs such as Medicaid and Medicare."
Rural areas also tend to have higher rates of people without any health insurance at all, as well as a lack of primary care doctors. When you couple those factors with the sheer distances people have to travel to seek medical care, getting proper treatment and follow up for chronic illnesses often doesn't happen, Elehwany explained.
About 20 percent to 25 percent of the U.S. population live in rural areas, she added.
You can view the County Health Rankings Report.
SOURCES: Patrick Remington, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean, public health, University of Wisconsin, School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison; Maggie Elehwany, J.D., vice president, government affairs and policy, National Rural Health Association, Washington, D.C.; Feb. 17, 2010, County Health Rankings
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