A new University of Missouri study is looking at health inequalities in rural Missouri. The study found that health care organizations are beginning to offer basic social services as it helps contributes to someone’s overall health.

Julie Kapp, with the MU College of Health Sciences, said her research shows that health care organizations need to change their approach to improving the health outcomes of rural Americans by providing basic services.

“There’s so many facets of our life that are affected by or affect healthcare,” Kapp said. “That might be things like transportation. If you can’t get to your job or you can’t get to your doctor, that’s going to affect your health. It might be things like food insecurity. If you can’t eat three square meals a day, how are you supposed to take your medicine that tells you to take your medicine on a full stomach?”

Her recommendations include a wider focus on telehealth, partnering with food banks, and creating a transportation system for patients.

“Areas might not have broadband access,” according to Kapp. “People might not have access to telehealth, for example. They might have fewer specialists in their area. They might have longer travel times to healthcare providers. They might have greater health disparities on particular outcomes. That’s why we focused on rural areas.”

Kapp said that changes are on the horizon, highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Largely it’s been facilitated by a change in the federal law through the 2010 Affordable Care Act,” said Kapp. “They’re focusing more on providing better value to U.S. healthcare patients as opposed to volume, which has been how healthcare organizations in the past have paid for their services.”

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