Rural communities comprise 19.3 percent of Washington State’s population. This is a rather small percentage compared to Washington’s urban population of 80.7 percent, but according to the National Rural Health Association, health care in rural communities presents challenges unlike those in urban areas. For example:
- More than 50 percent of vehicle crash-related fatalities happen in rural areas, even though less than one-third of miles are traveled in a vehicle there.
- There is an additional 22 percent risk of injury-related death in rural areas.
- Rural areas have more frequent occurrences of diabetes and coronary heart disease than non-rural areas.
In addition, mental health creates challenges of accessibility to services, availability of mental health professionals, and the stigma of needing or receiving mental health care. One of the most staggering statics in rural communities is that rural youth are twice as likely to commit suicide.
These issues need to be addressed so that Washington’s rural communities have the health care resources they need. WSHA is committed to working with rural facilities to find creative ways to address the inequities and create healthier communities. (Linda Michel)