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Chronic Condition Rates Highest Among Rural Teens

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, November 2, 2011

A report from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) shows that compared to children in urban areas, children in rural areas have less access to care. The "National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH):  The Health and Well-Being of Children in Rural Areas: A Portrait of the Nation in 2007" also finds that the percentage of children with chronic conditions such as obesity, asthma, and diabetes is highest among teenagers living in small rural areas.

"The primary challenge is a shortage of providers," Tom Morris, associate administrator of the Office of Rural Health Policy, tells HealthLeaders via e-mail. "There are not enough primary care providers compared to urban areas.  Approximately 60% of primary care health professional shortage areas are rural."

But the access problem goes beyond the lack of primary care providers. According to Morris, "there are shortages of pediatricians and also challenges in terms of access to specialized pediatric providers for both primary care, but also in terms of mental and oral health services."

Although children's overall health status didn't vary much by location, other indicators showed significant differences among children living in rural areas. 

"These findings highlight the heterogeneous nature of the pediatric rural population and suggest areas where targeted approaches may be needed to address disparities," Reem M. Ghandour,DrPH, MPA, a public health analyst with HRSA, tells HealthLeaders via e-mail.

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