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Out of reach? Rural elders have highest rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease
Date:6/14/2011

ome older adults in rural settings report that they cannot consistently afford enough food to last the month. This rate is about twice that of low-income suburban adults.

Rural adults also have higher rates of heart disease and repeated falls and are more likely to be low-income than suburban older adults, a factor that exacerbates many health conditions.

Because so many of the health problems encountered by older adults living in the countryside are structural, the authors of the study recommend that policymakers consider a range of strategies to make rural environments more senior-friendly. Those recommendations include "senior walkability plans": identification of the routes seniors often use and subsequent improvements to those routes, including the creation or improvement of sidewalks, lighting and seating/benches.

The study's authors also note that distance barriers faced by rural elders can be reduced with the help of the Internet in a variety of ways, including in-home monitoring, patient self-management and online ordering of prescriptions. However, they note that infrastructure and adoption hurdles in rural communities including a lack of broadband infrastructure and an insufficient information technology workforce must be addressed and that there must be assurances that insurance companies will fully reimburse rural providers that use telemedicine.

Other recommendations include the use of "universal design" principles in all public contracting, the promotion of federal subsidies and assistance programs to rural grocery stores and other health food outlets, expanded transportation services, and better incentives for primary care providers who work in rural areas.


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Contact: Gwen Driscoll
gdriscoll@ucla.edu
310-794-0930
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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