For residents of rural communities, accessing health care is a challenge. In a new study, researchers found that it was more of a challenge for minorities.
the a report, From the Center for Rural and Minority Health Research, on how close some zip codes are to different types of health care. Then they looked at what access looked like in areas with higher proportions of racial and ethnic minorities.
What the study found was that availability of different types of health care was worse for rural minorities, said Janice Probst, lead author of the study.
“If you’re in a rural area, you’ll be farther away (from healthcare) than in an urban area just because that’s what rural is — it’s defined by being far away,” Probst said in an interview with The Daily Yonder. “And if there are certain populations for whom it is really difficult (to access health care) … If you are far from that access, or far from those services, you are less likely to benefit from it.”
Researchers looked at rural zip codes in the lower 48 states to see how many are within 15 or 30 miles of various health care services — a Federally Qualified Health Center (FHQC), Rural Health Clinic (RHC), emergency rooms or pharmacies, trauma care, and fare cardiology, intensive care, substance use disorder treatment, and obstetrics. Next, Probst said, they went further and looked at how far urban and rural communities with higher proportions of minorities had access to the same services.
Consistently, researchers found that rural zip code areas with higher percentages of minority populations were more likely to be remote from these health care services.
In general, about 10% of all zip codes are further than 15 miles from an FHQC or RHC. But when the researchers looked at rural zip codes, the proportion nearly doubled. For some rural zip codes with higher percentages of minorities, the percentage remote from those amenities nearly tripled.
For example, when the researchers looked at urban zip codes that had higher percentages of white residents than non-Hispanics, only 10.5% had to travel more than 15 miles to get to an FHQC or RHC. In rural communities of non-Hispanic white residents, nearly a quarter (23%) of ZIP code areas were more than 15 miles away.
Differences between urban communities with higher proportions of minorities and their counterparts in rural areas also showed significant disparities. For example, only 2% of urban ZIP code areas with higher percentages of Hispanic residents were more than 15 miles from an FHQC or RHC, while 13.5% of those in rural areas were. The same is true of the Asian population, with 0.4% of those urban ZIP codes reporting FHQCs or RHCs more than 15 miles away, compared to more than 16% of those rural ZIP codes more than 15 miles away.
Probst said researchers found similar results when they looked at access to everything from emergency rooms to pharmacies to trauma care, and for more specialized treatment such as cancer care and treatment for substance use disorders.
Overall, about 7% of all communities were within 15 miles of a pharmacy. Nearly twice the percentage of rural counties (12.3%) were more than 15 miles away. For racial and ethnic communities, about a quarter of Hispanic (26.4%) and AI/AN (23%) communities were within more than 15 miles of a pharmacy.
She said the reason is rooted in history.
She said the black populations of the “Old South,” as well as the Hispanic populations of the Southwest, are remnants of historical settlement patterns. Similarly, she said, countries in the West have more AI/AN populations, but also have lower population densities and require residents to travel greater distances.
“Across all groups, the AI/AN groups are invariably away from any source of care,” she said.
In fact, communities with higher proportions of AI/AN residents were more likely to travel more for each healthcare category studied.
For example, the study found that for substance use disorder treatment, only 9.7% of all urban ZIP code areas are more than 15 miles from a treatment facility, but 45.2% of rural ZIP code areas with higher ratios of AI/AN residents they. Only about a third (29.4%) of zip code areas across the country are more than 15 miles from an emergency room, but nearly two thirds (63.4%) of rural AI/AN zip codes are present. Those AI/AN zip code areas are most likely to be more than 30 miles from a trauma center (45.3%), intensive care unit (45%), cardiac care unit (53.7%) and obstetrics unit (28.9). %).
Similarly, more than a third of all rural ZIP codes with the highest percentages of Hispanic residents report being more than 30 miles away from trauma centers (42.1%), intensive care units (39.7%), and maternity units (29.1%) while nearly Of half reported being more than 30 miles from a cardiac care unit (46.3%).
Probst said the findings are important because the availability of care affects whether or not a patient uses the service. Without access to these services, rural populations are likely to remain without the healthcare they need.
this condition It debuted in The Daily Yunder It is republished here under a Creative Commons license.