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Facts & Figures: Access to Health Care in Rural America

Remote Chance: Rural Health Care in America, a digital-first series of short films by award-winning filmmaker Elizabeth Arledge, made possible by

Rural Americans live about twice as far from their nearest hospital

According to a new Center analysis, rural Americans live an average of 10.5 miles from the nearest hospital, compared with 5.6 miles for people in suburban areas and 4.4 for those in urban areas. Considering local traffic patterns, that works out to a travel time of 17 minutes for people who live in rural communities, 12 minutes for those in suburban areas, and 10 minutes for those in urban areas.

20% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas where only 10% of doctors practice

Thousands of Americans struggle to find doctors to provide basic medical care, but rural America represents one of our country’s largest medically underserved populations. 20% of the population lives in rural areas, but only 10% of family physicians practice there.  With few doctors willing to relocate to these areas, a physician shortage could have serious consequences on access and quality of care.

The lack of screening, preventive care, patient education, and treatment in rural regions has led to an increased incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STI)

Historically, there have been higher rates of sexually transmitted infections among urban residents compared with rural residents. However, the lack of screening, preventive care, patient education, and treatment in rural regions has led to an increased incidence of STIs.

According to a recent study, there are “hot spots” in the southern United States where there are high rates of STIs.

…Particularly among young adults living in poverty

Cases of STIs, particularly gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis, have notable increased among adolescents and young adults living in poverty. Other factors contributing to this uptick:

  • Rural men were less likely to have ever been tested for HIV than men who lived in urban areas.
  • Rural men were also less likely than their urban counterparts to have received free condoms or individual prevention counseling in the past year.
  • Rural men were less likely to have been tested for syphilis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia during the previous year.



About the Series

Remote Chance: Health Care in Rural America is a series leading to the upcoming 2023 documentary Critical Condition: Health Care in Rural America (WT), a production of Gurney Street Films and WETA Washington, D.C. Produced, directed and written by Elizabeth Arledge.

Support for Remote Chance: Health Care in Rural America provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

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