Due to unique barriers to access and quality of healthcare, rural Americans have, among many other poorer health outcomes, a worsening life expectancy than their urban counterparts: 76.8 years compared to 78.8 years. In addition to overall mortality, the burden of disease is greater in rural areas, as well as rates of physical injury. There are many intersecting influencing factors including, but not limited to, barriers to access needed healthcare, issues regarding the quality of healthcare provided, the ability to pay for healthcare and other socioeconomic considerations are both causes and consequences of poor health and healthcare access.
The health disparities between rural and urban communities in the United States are not uniquely American. This rural-urban divide in health outcomes is present across the world and, closer to home, across North America. In addition to reviewing the current literature surrounding barriers to health and healthcare access in the United States, we will also use southern neighbor Mexico’s history and their pursuit of rural equity (universally and in health/healthcare access) to contrast initiatives that the U.S. has attempted, with the intent of exploring new theories of rural healthcare provision. By combining the history of social medicine in Mexico with literature on barriers to healthcare access, I hope to highlight areas of innovation and improvement in the American health care delivery system.
The purpose of this paper is to review the current literature regarding health disparities among rural Americans, possible causes of such disparities and current strategies to improve health, healthcare access and healthcare quality in rural America in order to recommend the most effective, practical solutions to improve rural mortality, morbidity and quality of life.