Death from Preventable Causes a More Likely Prospect for Rural Americans, Study Shows

CDC study shows Rural Americans are more likely to die from the five leading preventable causes. Rural populations have a much higher rate of death from preventable causes than urban areas, demonstrates a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Rural Areas

Rural Areas

The study looked at the five major causes of death and what percentage of these would be classified as preventable, comparing the death rate between rural counties and major metropolitan areas. The causes included in the research were: heart disease, cancer, unintended injuries, respiratory disease, and stroke.

The CDC has come out with a message of reassurance. The government health agency states that it is looking into understanding the factors which contribute to this discrepancy and hoping to correct any mishaps in the national healthcare system, which might be playing a role in the rural/urban preventable mortality gap.

The comparison between the statistics of 2010 and 2017 demonstrates an increasing divide between rural areas and cities when it comes to cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease mortality rates. The numbers in 2014 not being reassuring show: 

  • 25,000 deaths due to heart disease
  • 19,000 due to cancer
  • 12,000 from unintentional injuries
  • 11,000 due to respiratory disease
  • 4,000 from stroke 

All in rural areas, with a higher percentage of these being completely preventable.

The gap between rural and urban areas for deaths due to unintentional injury seemed to have narrowed. But this too comes from a place of increasing incidence – there has been a spike in injuries in urban areas due to the opioid crisis.

The rural/urban gap is a complicated healthcare phenomenon; the CDC has given numerous explanations on the potential causes. Rural Americans smoke more, are on average more likely to be obese, and lead a sedentary lifestyle and are more likely not to use seat belts when driving. Rural populations are poorer and tend to be of a higher average age than urban populations.

Not all of the differences can be ascribed to the characteristics of rural populations, however. Our healthcare system is partially to blame, the accessibility of healthcare is much lower in rural areas, and emergency care is complicated by the lack of proper medical centers and staff in these regions.

 The CDC has been tackling this issue by promoting preventative measures. The agency made numerous recommendations to rural physicians to promote good health in their areas; these include: 

  • To screen patients for high blood pressure and sugar levels. These being the main risk factors for both stroke and heart disease.
  • Promote screening for the early detection of cancer.
  • Encourage physical activity and healthy eating habits. Preventing obesity and diabetes may lead to deadly complications.
  • Promote smoking cessation.
  • Encourage motor vehicle safety — especially the proper use of seat belts.
  • To carefully select patients to prescribe opioids for pain relief.

It is clear that rural areas have some intrinsic features which may contribute to the difference in mortality. But the CDC seeks to reduce the contribution of healthcare accessibility and quality in this issue as much as possible.

References

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/p1107rural-americans.html

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