Health care delivery in rural areas
Consider this, you’re a parent, and in the middle of the night, you wake up to see your young child standing next to your bed, telling you they don’t feel good. You reach up, touch their forehead, and find they’re burning with fever. What do you do? If you live in a major urban area, you can easily take them to any one of numerous nearby emergency clinics. However, if you live in a rural area, that choice is often not available to you. Maybe you are a senior citizen and you experience a pain in your chest, if you live in the city, you can call 911 and have help in a manner of minutes, if you live in a rural area, it might take more than an hour for someone to reach you. What is the current state of the American health care system especially as it relates to those citizens who live in rural areas that have limited or no access to health care and if the current state is not adequate, why?
The facts are rural Texans and Americans in general, suffer from a lack of adequate health care services. According to a January 2018 article by reporter Gaby Galvin in U.S. News and World Report, the statistics shows, “there are approximately 46 million American living in rural areas, who because of a lack of healthcare services are more susceptible to injuries, diseases than those living in urban areas.” One of the reasons for this is a lack of professionals. According to a report published in 2018 by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services estimates, there are only enough health professionals in rural America to service 59.04% of the population. Texas with its extreme size suffers more than most. The Texas Department of Agriculture reports that as of January 2018, 64 of the 177 counties designated as rural do not have a hospital, and 25 do not have primary care physicians. Their report goes on to point out how, in some cases, Texans have to drive more than 100 miles to reach the nearest hospital and 75% of Texas counties are federally designated as an Medically Underserved Area.
While a lack of health care services can have affect all demographics in rural areas, the two most vulnerable are pediatrics and the elderly. In an article by Doctor D.C. Grossman published in 2016 in the American Academy of Pediatrics Journal discusses that in many cases a lack of proper medical facilities and professionals often forces parents to seek treatment for their children outside their community. This is especially true when a specialist or specialty treatment is needed. In a 2001 article in the Journal of Rural Health, C. N. Bull and others detail how this lack of healthcare for the elderly is not a new situation. In addition to the lack of medical professionals trained in gerontology, there are several additional barriers that must be overcome; these include, distance, terrain that must be travelled, quality transportation, and a lack of economic resources.
46 million Americas who live in rural America are underserved by the Healthcare system. Part of that is due to the shortage of health professionals, and in some cases, by not having critical access hospitals or even primary physicians available. Private not-for-profit health care organizations, the States, and the Federal Government are all working on finding solutions to the issue. It will take time and it will take money, but it can be resolved.
Bull, C. N., Krout, J. A., Rathborne-McCuan, E., & Shreffler, M. J. (2001). Access
and issues of equity in remote/rural areas. Journal of Rural Health, 17, 356-359.
Galvin, G,, (2018), The state of health care in rural America, U.S. News and World Report, retrieved
Grossman, D. C., (2016), Rural-Urban migration for pediatric inpatient care, Pediatrics, 137
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) U.S. Department of Health & Human Services,
(2018), Designated health professional shortage areas statistics, HRSA Data Warehouse,
Bureau of Health Workforce, Washington D.C.
Texas Department of Agriculture, (2018), State of health care in rural Texas, Austin Texas, retrieved