Health Disparities in Rural Areas

By | June 21, 2017
Carrie Henning-Smith
Researcher Carrie Henning-Smith

Important health disparities exist between people living in rural areas and those in urban areas. For those living in greater Minnesota, maintaining good health can be a challenge. Rural health researcher Carrie Henning-Smith says much of this is due to social determinants of health.

“[In rural areas] People live farther from each other and farther from the doctor, the hospital, and the heath care provider they need to see so people are traveling greater distances and transportation is often an issue,” she says. “As a result, we sometimes see people going without care that they need, which is problematic.”

But, she says, everyone can help make rural communities healthier.

“Everyone benefits from the work that’s happening in rural areas,” she says. “We, as a society, need to focus on what we can do to change policies to have an impact on those social determinants of health. In large part, we focus that attention on access to care and we have a lot of programs that incentivize providers to go into rural areas, and those are all really great. But we also need to move upstream and think about how do we give people access to education, to employment, to living wages, so that they can have a chance to have a healthy life before they even need to go and see the doctor.”

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