About 60 million people, or one in five Americans, live in rural America . People in rural areas face unique health challenges related to individual risk factors and social determinants of health, such as healthcare access and quality, which contribute to significant disparities in cardiovascular health.
Here’s more about cardiovascular health in rural America, the factors contributing to this rural health disparity, and how at-home healthcare solutions can help reduce barriers to care.
Cardiovascular health in rural America
Rural areas have significantly higher rates of uncontrolled traditional cardiovascular risk factors compared with urban areas . These higher rates of risk factors contribute to people who live in rural areas of the U.S. being 40% more likely to develop heart disease and having a 30% higher risk of stroke than people who live in urban areas .
According to a large, observational study published in the journal JAMA Cardiology by researchers at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), adults living in rural areas of the United States have a 19% higher risk of developing heart failure compared to their urban counterparts . The same study found that:
The risk of heart failure was highest in rural Black men, who had a 34% higher risk of heart failure than their urban counterparts.
Women were also at a greater risk of heart failure, with rural Black and white women having an 18% and 22% higher risk of heart failure compared to women living in urban areas.
Reasons for health disparities in rural America
Unique health challenges related to individual risk factors and social determinants of health drive these disparities in cardiovascular health. Rural Americans are less likely to have health insurance, have less access to healthcare services for urgent conditions, and are more likely to encounter lower-quality care than their urban counterparts.
Other barriers to healthcare access in rural areas may include:
Distance and transportation
People in geographically disadvantaged areas often face longer response times for emergency services, less access to medical care, and longer wait times to see providers.
They are also more likely to travel long distances to access healthcare services, which can be a significant burden in terms of time, cost, and time away from the workplace. Many rural residents also lack private or public transportation, as transport in rural areas is often less reliable and widely available.
Adequate healthcare access is dependent on having a regular source of care. Hospitals in rural areas are closing at higher rates due to financial struggles. Shortages of healthcare professionals in rural America can restrict healthcare access by limiting the supply of available services.
As of September 2022, 65.6% of Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) were located in rural areas, meaning many rural residents lack an appropriate care provider due to shortages .
Poor health literacy
Health literacy impacts a patient's ability to understand health information and instructions from their healthcare providers. This can be a challenge in rural communities, where lower educational levels and higher incidences of poverty often impact residents.
Low health literacy can make residents reluctant to seek healthcare due to fear or frustration about communicating with a healthcare professional. Additionally, inadequate health literacy skills can make navigating the healthcare system challenging.
How at-home healthcare solutions can address rural disparities in cardiovascular health
Although public health and policy efforts to address disparities in rural health have intensified over the past decade, there remain large gaps in clinical outcomes for cardiovascular conditions. Increasing access to care and improving healthcare quality in rural America is crucial to addressing widening disparities in cardiovascular and overall health.
At-home healthcare solutions can help address rural healthcare access issues. Rural patients can promptly access screening tests and clinical insights through at-home care while staying in the comfort of their homes or local facilities.
This convenient healthcare option can help reduce barriers to care for people who live far away from healthcare services and specialists, have time or access restrictions, or have transportation or mobility issues. It’s also a good way for doctors to monitor chronic conditions, improving quality of life and reducing hospital admissions and deaths from chronic diseases.
How LetsGetChecked can help close care gaps in rural communities
LetsGetChecked’s accessible and convenient at-home healthcare solutions make it easy to reach individuals with the care they need, regardless of location. Our solutions meet people where they are, with clinical insights and quality care to help close care gaps in underserved communities.
We provide our partners with the tools to help populations manage their health and live healthier, happier lives through health testing, genetic sequencing and insights, virtual care, and medication delivery for various health and wellness conditions.