Rural Communities Facing Premature Death!
Report: Challenges and Solutions Reaching This Growing Population
"The County Health Rankings show us that where people live plays a key role in how long and how well they live," Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a press release. "The Rankings allow local leaders to clearly see and prioritize the challenges they face."
North Carolina start-up MyHealthStyle App sees this report as an opportunity to reach rural and suburban areas that are showing the poorest health outcomes. "Statistically our social media demographics already show us age, location, and type of technology people engaging with our company are currently using. These align well with the rural counties in this report showing the highest premature death rates, especially when you overlay the high obesity and diabetes rates also in rural counties," says Alexandra Reid, CEO of MyHealthStyle, a mobile health coaching platform. Rural residents often experience barriers to health care that limit their ability to get the care they need. Means to reach and use services, such as transportation to services which may be located at a distance, and the ability to take paid time off work are barriers, according to the Rural Health Information Hub.
Leaders and policy makers are using this information in actionable ways; for example, it has shown leaders in Rowan County (NC) that many residents lived in food deserts – areas where healthy foods weren't easily accessible. To address this issue, an initiative was started to create a mobile farmers market, bringing fresh food right to the people whose transportation barriers prevented them from accessing it regularly. Rockingham County (NC) used the Rankings data as a charge to assemble a task force, identify the root causes of their poor health rankings, and develop recommendations for community action. And MyHealthStyle app will target its social media communications specifically to rural populations with programs addressing needs, such as diabetes coaching, metabolic disease education and providing healthy menu planning.
"If accessibility is a barrier, we can reach them right at their fingertips, on their phone, daily and when they need support. We can marry the knowledge from our social media insights with programs created specifically for this population, and we can report back data to community programs/government entities we might work with to help them gain additional insights," says Reid. According to 2010 census data, approximately 25% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas and as such is a compelling market that requires a thoughtful structure to support and engage individuals in health and lifestyle improvement.