CDC: 6 tactics to help reduce health disparities among rural patients

Five leading causes of death disproportionately kill rural Americans at higher rates than their urban counterparts, according to new research from the CDC.

After analyzing mortality data for both rural and urban counties, researchers found individuals living in rural communities were more susceptible to death from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke. Noted contributing factors to these disparities include higher rates of obesity and smoking among rural communities, high rates of poverty, limited access to healthcare services and fewer people with health insurance coverage.

"This new study shows there is a striking gap in health between rural and urban Americans," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, in a release. "To close this gap, we are working to better understand and address the health threats that put rural Americans at increased risk of early death."

Here are six strategies for rural providers from the CDC to address these health disparities.

1. Screen patients regularly for high blood pressure and make controlling blood pressure rates among patients a goal for quality improvement.

2. Participate in state-level comprehensive cancer control programs to increase prevention efforts and improve early detection.

3. Encourage all patients to eat healthy and stay activate to combat rates of obesity.

4. Encourage patients who smoke to begin smoking cessation.

5. Promote safe driving practices by encouraging patients to always wear seatbelts, and counsel parents and child care providers to use appropriate car seats and booster seats for children on every trip.

6. Follow the CDC guidelines when prescribing opioid medications for pain and advise patients on the availability of nonpharmacological pain therapies.

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