Research funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) released today shows that rural America has a disproportionately high number of diabetes-related hospital deaths compared to urban America. The burden of diabetes-related hospitalizations is most pronounced in the South and Midwest. Nearly 10 percent of the adult U.S. population - more than 30 million people - suffer from diabetes.
The study by the Southwest Rural Health Research Center, shows that in rural areas, the likelihood of dying due to diabetes-related hospitalizations was 3.4 percent higher in rural areas than in large central metropolitan areas between 2009 and 2014. Mortality rates were highest within the rural areas of the South and Midwest regions (21.0 and 15.1 deaths per 100,000 population, respectively) compared to the Northeast and West (11.1 and 10.8 deaths per 100,000 population, respectively).
The South's rural and small metropolitan areas had higher average diabetes-related hospital mortality rates (21.0, 20.3, and 14.0 deaths per 100,000 population, respectively) than similar areas in other regions of the country.
"We know that rural residents have greater distances to travel and a harder time accessing health care services than their urban counterparts," said HRSA Administrator George Sigounas, MS, Ph.D. "This study underscores the need to do more to address rural disparities in access to health care."
HRSA supports additional diabetes activities in rural communities through the Small Health Care Provider Quality, Rural Health Outreach and Network Programs, which work to increase access, efficiencies and improve quality of care in rural communities. Currently 32 percent of these grants have a diabetes focus.
HRSA also supports diabetes telehealth activities to enhance access to care for individuals living in rural communities. The School-Based Telehealth Network Grant Program delivers telehealth services through school-based health centers/ (SBHCs). Approximately 33 percent of these grantees are focused on increasing access to care in rural communities for diabetes. Other areas of focus include asthma, obesity reduction and prevention, behavioral health, and oral health.
"Diabetes prevalence is about 15 to 17 percent higher in rural areas than in urban areas and recent CDC MMWR data states that 62 percent of nonmetropolitan counties do not have diabetes self-management programs," said Tom Morris, Associate Administrator for Rural Health Policy at HRSA. "Our programs are designed to meet the specific needs of rural communities and bring local resources together to make an impact and improve the lives of individuals living in rural America."
For more resources and best practices to identify, implement, and sustain a program to prevent and/or manage diabetes in rural areas, please visit: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/toolkits/diabetes