Two Sides of the Same Coin: Rural and Urban Health Care Professionals
By: Sidney Brown, OMS-1
During the pandemic, the voices of healthcare professionals were amplified to describe their arduous journeys. From both rural and urban providers, we saw the challenges they faced as if medicine was a coin and they were the two faces. There are differences between the challenges and disparities these communities face and the professionals serving them, but there are similarities.
“Less than 11 percent of physicians practice in rural areas…”
As a student from rural Mississippi, I am familiar with the notion of traveling long distances to seek healthcare. Similarly, medical experiences and education are further from home. These disadvantages translate to rural communities at risk:
- Experiencing higher rates of chronic conditions
- Noting activity limitations
- Reporting poor physical and mental health
- Participating in risky health behaviors
Telemedicine is noted as one solution to increasing accessibility to care. Still, it is essential to note that rural community members are less likely to report having access to broadband than suburban populations (Vogels, 2021). Furthermore, rural health education measures such as workshops, speaking engagements, and one-on-one meetings are vital to bridging the education disparities. All of this to say, physicians wear many hats in their rural community, from educator to neighbor to caretaker.
Over 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and this is set to rise to 68% by 2050!
In sprawling urban cities, the interconnectivity of public transportation is essential for many to navigate their communities, but these systems also bring air and noise pollution, increasing disease transmission and soil and water contamination. With growing urbanization, social issues such as expanding violence and food deserts are also to consider. Urban physicians must meet increasing population demands and balance an understanding of all social determinants of health.
Ultimately, rural and urban areas face unique healthcare challenges, with all healthcare professionals determined to provide care and support amidst it all. In all our communities, there are shortages across the board: behavioral health counselors, nurses, physicians, faculty, etc. It takes a team to educate our communities, advocate for positive change, and facilitate health parity.
Fact sheet: Strengthening the health care workforce: AHA. American Hospital Association. (2021, November). Retrieved February 26, 2023, from https://www.aha.org/fact-sheets/2021-05-26-fact-sheet-strengthening-health-care-workforce
Rural and Urban Health. (n.d.). Health Policy Institute. https://hpi.georgetown.edu/rural/#
Rural Health Information Hub. Rural Health Disparities Overview. (2022, November). Retrieved February 26, 2023, from https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/topics/rural-health-disparities
Vogels, E. (2021, August 19). Some digital divides persist between rural, urban and suburban America. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/08/19/some-digital-divides-persist-between-rural-urban-and-suburban-america/