By Emiliano Espino, Community Health Educator
In the healthcare field and the disparities therein, we are constantly talking about how to improve the delivery of health services. Unfortunately, policy and services are focused mainly on the improvement of these amenities in urban areas and cities. Too often are those in rural areas forgotten, areas that are sparse and have limited or no access to health services. These citizens are often overlooked when discussing the improvement of the healthcare system.
The CDC and other health organizations have provided data on the disparities in health and the access to health services afflicting rural populations. One of the biggest issues in rural areas is the closure of hospitals; according to Becker’s Hospital Review, 64 rural hospitals closed between 2013 and 2017, leaving many communities without access to desperately needed resources. As a result, there has been a shift in the rural health community from in-person doctor visits to scheduling telehealth appointments and providing medical care through a virtual presence.
Another issue often seen in rural communities is substance abuse, such as addiction to alcohol, prescription drugs like opioids, and other illegal substances. In 2015, the CDC reported approximately 52,000 deaths due to substance overdose within rural communities. This is being addressed with alternatives to opioid prescriptions and providing the mental health services that can help prevent substance abuse.
By setting aside November 21st as National Rural Health Day, it allows for the spotlight to fall on the struggles that rural communities must deal with. We cannot forget those who do not have the access to health services and must continue to advocate for the same quality of resources as their urban counterparts.
Rural or urban, Esperança believes in bridging the gap to quality health for all.