The Department of Health and Senior Services says accessing basic health care is becoming increasingly challenging due to hospital closures and fewer available hospital beds in rural Missouri. Since the last published Health in Rural Missouri report in 2017, four rural, general acute care hospitals have closed – bringing the number of rural counties without a hospital to 55.
The latest report says rural Missourians die at significantly higher rates than urban residents. For every 100,000 people living in rural areas during 2007-2017, there were nearly 869 deaths, compared to 785 in urban areas.
According to the report, heart disease tops the list for the leading cause of death for rural and urban Missourians, followed by cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases. A citizen in a rural Missouri county during the same ten-year period is 20% more likely to die of heart disease than one living in an urban county.
Between 2007 and 2017, the report says pregnancy related deaths were 47% higher for rural communities than for urban ones. In Missouri, more than 1,500 cases of maternal morbidity or mortality were reported in 2016-2017. The ten counties with the highest rates of maternal morbidity statewide are all rural.
Death rates from opioid overdose are increasing in rural areas, although less quickly than in urban areas. Similarly to urban areas, the state data shows opioid overdose death rates are highest in the eastern part of the state.
According to the report, the health status of rural Missouri boils down to unhealthy behaviors, inadequate access to health care and an older, poorer population.
Poverty is much more prevalent in rural areas than in urban areas, with a 29% lower per capita income. Rural Missouri also has much higher percentages of children and elderly living in poverty.
To view the full report, click here.
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