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Pediatric Care Remains Challenge for Rural America

Pediatric Care Remains Challenge for Rural America

One Country Project

Rural America faces unique challenges in health care access. Farm life can involve many hazards and accidents—especially for children—making access to emergency care essential for rural communities.

Children in rural areas have a significantly higher injury death rate than children in urban areas. When kids get hurt and need immediate medical treatment, it is vital that parents can reach an emergency room in time to receive life-saving care. But in many rural regions, access to emergency care has diminished as hospitals facing sustained financial hardship are forced to close these crucial services.

According to data from the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety, a child dies every three days in an agriculture-related incident, and every day at least 33 children are seriously injured. Despite the clear need for emergency services, rural Americans often have the least access to them. Nearly 4.5 million Americans live in “ambulance deserts”—areas where the nearest emergency room is too far away for travel to be feasible—with 52% of them in rural counties.

Communities in “ambulance deserts” face significantly worse health outcomes; without access to emergency care, otherwise treatable injuries can quickly become fatal. Treating children is also more complex and requires additional expertise, meaning that many emergency clinics that could otherwise help fill this void are not equipped to treat severe child injuries. And on top of these challenges, a growing need for mental health care among youth has pushed many emergency rooms to their breaking point.

Hospital emergency care is thus vital for the health and safety of rural communities, but as hospitals face extraordinary financial challenges—especially in rural areas—access to this care is increasingly at risk. Even worse, Congress has proposed harmful “site-neutral” cuts to hospital reimbursements that threaten to shrink this already-dwindling access even further. Elected officials must not ignore the needs of rural Americans, and unless action is taken to solve these access disparities, children will continue to suffer from treatable injuries.

Now, more than ever, it is paramount that we protect our children and ensure they have access to life-saving emergency care. The best place to start is by keeping our rural hospitals open.

Posted on November 8, 2023 in News.
Tags: health
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