Have you ever thought about your risk of death based on where you live and your ethnicity?
Health Affairs has published a study comparing urban and rural populations, and what they discovered can direct public policy and our tax dollars in the direction where they can do the most good for those who need it.
Their study reveals that health outcomes among rural, minority populations are seldom examined. Mortality among urban and rural white, African-Americans, and Hispanic adults ages 45-64 were studied for each group and the outcomes compared. They found the mortality risk to be higher among both rural white and minority populations when compared to urban whites.
Rural African-Americans were at higher risk of death than urban blacks. This is interesting because in the past the risk of death statistics for African-American males particularly ages 18-25 was quite high, yet this study shows the rural group to be at higher risk. The rural group study, however, was not limited to just males.
The differences between the two populations were diminished when some personal characteristics and circumstances were the same between each group. For example, when level of education, having health insurance and income were equal in both urban and rural communities the disparity was reduced or even eliminated. This shows that by improving the standard of living through available education, adequate health care and jobs providing a living wage make a difference in life expectancy and the quality of life.
The study suggests that policies directed toward reducing differences related to education, poverty, and health insurance would go a long way toward eliminating the disparities in health status between urban and rural populations.
Poverty the Highest in 52 Years
Although this study shows those living in rural communities to be the most at risk, people living below the poverty line is growing every day which could blur the defining line between urban and rural population comparisons. This is particularly true as safety net programs are eliminated, Medicaid and Medicare funds are reduced, and the numbers without adequate health insurance continue to climb.
According the New York Times, the number of Americans living below the official poverty line, 46.2 million people, was the highest number in the 52 years the census bureau has been publishing figures on it.
Lawrence Katz, an economics professor at Harvard says,“This is truly a lost decade,” We think of America as a place where every generation is doing better, but we’re looking at a period when the median family is in worse shape than it was in the late 1990s.”
Poverty can be offset by the availability of social programs, but now the ones remaining are in jeopardy or like the Energy Assistance Program has been rolled back to make it harder to qualify leaving a segment of the population without heating assistance this winter.
The question is will future public policies reflect the actual needs of Americans or continue down the road in support of the 1%?