Americans Living in Rural Areas Face Higher Risk of Preventable Death: Study

The findings of a new study suggest that there is a big gap in the risk of deaths from preventable causes among individuals living in urban and rural areas, with those living in less populated areas more likely to die from some of the leading causes avoidable deaths, such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease and unintentional injury.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published the findings on Thursday, as part of a new rural health series in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Data from 2014 was analyzed from the National Vital Statistics Systems, which indicated that during that one year, deaths among rural Americans included 25,000 from heart disease, 19,000 from cancer, 12,000 from unintentional injuries, 11,000 from chronic lower respiratory disease, and 4,000 from stroke.

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Overall, the percentages of preventable deaths were higher in rural areas than in urban areas.

“This new study shows there is a striking gap in health between rural and urban Americans,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a press 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.”

More than 46 million Americans live in rural areas, accounting for 15% of U.S. population. Reasons for why they may face increased risk of death involve demographic, environmental, economic and social factors. Rural areas face higher rates of poverty, less access to healthcare and rural residents are less likely to have health insurance.

The study indicates that residents in rural areas are often older and sicker than residents of urban areas. Rural residents often have higher rates of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity. Rural residents report engaging in less physical activity and say they use their seatbelt less often than urban residents.

The unintentional injury death rates were 50% higher in rural areas than in urban areas, in large part due to a higher risk of death from motor vehicle crashes and opioid overdoses.

The CDC notes that not all of the deaths can be prevented. In some cases the deaths occur due to the distance between healthcare facilities and hospitals with trauma centers and the lack of rapid access to specialized care. Exposures to specific environmental hazards may also play a factor.

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