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Rural Life Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, July 24, 2013

"There probably is some component to access to care, but when we tried to adjust it in the way that we could with the data we had and look at—'do you have a trauma center in your county or surrounding county and how many do you have?'—to give an overall sense of 'do you have access to care?' and put that back into our analysis, it didn't seem to change the overall, even though there was a mild attenuation," Myers says. "But the same overall difference between rural and urban areas was still there. So it seems like there is more to it than just that."

Injury death risk fell in rural areas with larger populations of African-Americans, and Myers says she can only guess as to why. "Suicides have been found to be higher in rural areas than in urban areas and the black populations tend to be somewhat protected from suicides. That may be part of it," she says.  

The opposite was true for rural counties with large Latino populations, which had significantly higher risk of injury death than rural counties with small Latino populations. And perhaps most surprisingly, the study found that risk of injury death increased in rural areas with higher income and education levels. Explaining the causes for this and other findings, Myers says, "was not our focus, but it was more hypothesis-generating. Let's have further studies that look into this and try to see some of the underlying reasons."  

Myers says she hopes the study will prompt people to reexamine assumptions about healthcare needs in rural and urban America.

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2 comments on "Rural Life Can Be Hazardous to Your Health"


Dave Mittman, PA, DFAAPA (7/25/2013 at 11:52 AM)
The article's conclusions are too simplistic. Are the accidents more severe? Cars can drive much faster. People who are impaired drive without a red light every block so when they hit things they hit them faster. Rural people farm and use equipment that cause injuries, they tend not to sit in cubicles. Even rural sports are more extreme. Take into account the TIME it takes EMTS to reach people and stabilize them and transport them back. All really not a problem in the city. Even with the best ER people the patients come in sicker at times because of that. There are great clinicians in rural areas. There are some not so good. Same in cities. That being said if you have major trauma and can get to a major trauma center, you have a better change of living. Hard to separate the differing reasons for not doing as well though.

Thomas (7/25/2013 at 9:19 AM)
There are any number of reasons for this difference: the rural population is older; rural jobs tend to be more hazardous; rural homes and worksites are isolated and sometimes far from medical services; rural car crashes tend to occur at higher speeds and are often side-impacting "T" collisions or head-on.