Advisory calls for bridging inequities in rural health

By American Heart Association News

triggerflicks/Moment, Getty Images
(triggerflicks/Moment, Getty Images)

People who live in rural America are vulnerable to heart disease. Breaking down health care barriers for these residents is an inequity problem that needs innovative approaches, according to a new advisory from the American Heart Association.

It's a problem of inadequate and unaffordable health care and other systemic barriers that contribute to worse health outcomes, say advisory authors, who include former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Robert Califf and the AHA president, Dr. Robert Harrington.

The presidential advisory, published Monday in the journal Circulation, calls for more sustainable funding models to help keep struggling rural hospitals and care clinics afloat and for Medicaid expansion to give patients more affordable options.

It also recommends using tools like telehealth and digital technology as well as addressing the health care provider shortage in sparsely populated regions.

There is a three-year life expectancy gap between rural and urban populations. Rural areas see higher rates of tobacco use, physical inactivity and obesity, which have given rise to higher rates of diabetes and hypertension. In turn, rural communities have higher death rates from cardiovascular disease and stroke and higher maternal mortality rates due in part to cardiovascular deaths.

These populations also are more likely to experience mental and behavioral health challenges than those in urban areas.

To close the gaps, inequities in health and health care that result from disparities in income, education, housing, transportation and food security must be addressed, the advisory authors said.

The advisory coincides with the release of AHA's new goal to increase healthy life expectancy by 2030 – from age 66 to at least 68 in the United States and from 64 to at least 67 globally.

If you have questions or comments about this story, please email editor@heart.org.


American Heart Association News Stories

American Heart Association News covers heart disease, stroke and related health issues. Not all views expressed in American Heart Association News stories reflect the official position of the American Heart Association.

Copyright is owned or held by the American Heart Association, Inc., and all rights are reserved. Permission is granted, at no cost and without need for further request, for individuals, media outlets, and non-commercial education and awareness efforts to link to, quote, excerpt or reprint from these stories in any medium as long as no text is altered and proper attribution is made to American Heart Association News.

Other uses, including educational products or services sold for profit, must comply with the American Heart Association’s Copyright Permission Guidelines. See full terms of use. These stories may not be used to promote or endorse a commercial product or service.

HEALTH CARE DISCLAIMER: This site and its services do not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to your health care provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. If you are in the United States and experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or call for emergency medical help immediately.