Rural Health

December 13, 2019 • Volume 29, Issue 44
Can policymakers close the urban-rural divide?
By Barbara Mantel


Rural Americans are more likely to die by suicide and from chronic illness than their urban counterparts, and the health gap is widening. Researchers blame a number of factors for the disparity, including escalating rural hospital closures, shortages of doctors, a lack of public transportation and an older, sicker, poorer and less health-literate population than in metropolitan areas. Experts widely agree on what many rural communities need: greater access to broadband and telemedicine; more programs to attract young doctors; increased Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements to hospitals and physicians; improved public transportation; more economic opportunity; and greater flexibility for rural hospitals to enable them to better serve their communities. Many states and counties are creating innovative programs to address these challenges. But rural health stakeholders worry that without concerted action from Congress and from the 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid to all low-income adults, the health gap between rural and urban America will continue to widen.

People wait to enter a mobile clinic in Wise, Va. (Getty Images/John Moore)
People wait to enter a mobile clinic in Wise, Va., that provides free medical, dental and vision care to thousands of uninsured and underinsured people in Appalachia. Most rural Americans have less access to health care than do urban residents. (Getty Images/John Moore)
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
Consumer Behavior
Economic Crises
Medicaid and Medicare
Medicaid and Medicare
Medical Devices and Technology
Medical Profession and Personnel
Nursing Homes and Long Term Care Facilities
People with Disabilities
Regional Planning and Urbanization
Social Security
Welfare and Welfare Reform