Rural Health Care

November 23, 1979

Report Outline
Urban vs. Rural Health Care
Doctor Distribution and Supply
Federal Government Programs
Special Focus

Urban vs. Rural Health Care

Unmet Health Needs of Rural People

Living in the country can be hazardous to your health. That is the conclusion of those who have examined the relationship between where Americans live and the kind of health care they receive. Doctors tend to live and work in affluent areas close to large cities, leaving rural areas, as well as the inner cities, inadequately served. “The need for decent, affordable and accessible health care,” Vice President Walter F. Mondale said last year, “is one of the most pressing unmet needs in rural America today.” According to another observer, health care “is simply another vital service the system has decreed ‘off limits’ to rural people — a striking example of ‘placeism,’ or discrimination against persons because of where they live.”

While 30 percent of all Americans live in rural areas, these areas have only 17 percent of the nation's primary care physicians. Shortages of medical personnel are not confined to physicians. There are 30 percent fewer dentists and 30 percent fewer nurses per 100,000 population in rural than in metropolitan areas. Many rural communities lack the financial resources to build and maintain health care facilities. Even when health professionals and facilities are available, rural patients may not have access to such preventive services as nutrition counseling and health education. Furthermore, rural residents often face special environmental health hazards, including substandard housing, inadequate sewage disposal facilities and impure water supplies.

All of these factors have a harmful effect on the health of rural residents. They suffer from higher rates of chronic disease than urban dwellers do; they are over 40 percent more likely to be afflicted with emphysema, for instance. Infant mortality rates in rural America, according to the latest official statistics from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, run to 21.4 deaths per 1,000 live births, in contrast to 19.3 in metropolitan areas.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Rural America
Dec. 13, 2019  Rural Health
Mar. 31, 2017  Reviving Rural Economies
May 09, 2003  Crisis on the Plains
Jul. 20, 1990  The Continuing Decline of Rural America
May 06, 1988  Should Family Farms Be Saved?
Nov. 23, 1979  Rural Health Care
Aug. 15, 1975  Rural Migration
Feb. 09, 1939  Economic Changes in the Southern States
Medical Profession and Personnel
Outsourcing and Immigration