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Healthcare Care Access Disparities in Appalachia

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Health Care Access and Disparities within the Appalachian Region
Sherri Drake
PIMA Medical Institute
Health Care Access and Disparities within the Appalachian Region (NIH, 2002-2006) Health disparities are defined as “differences in the incidence, prevalence, mortality, and burden of diseases and other adverse health conditions that exist among specific population groups in the United States”. Health care access is the ability of a person to receive health care services as a function of access to medical personnel, supplies and the ability to pay for those services. The Appalachian region consists of thirteen states and 420 counties, in which the entire state of West Virginia is in Appalachia, along with the mountainous portions of
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The 18% poverty level of 2008 is improved from the 33% level of the 1960’s, this decrease is attributable to an increase in educational attainment and income, resulting in lower levels of poverty. Borak, Salipante-Zaidel, Slade & Fields (2012) state the following
Education is also strongly linked with health status; limited education is regarded as a “precursor to poor health”…In general, the counties with lowest educational attainment were “concentrated in central Appalachia, especially in the mining regions,” where health status is generally worst.
Even with some improvements in the region, Appalachia continues to linger below the U.S. average. (Halverson & Bischak, 2008) Suggests that two socioeconomic factors stand out when evaluating health disparity among mortality rates and those are poverty levels and the percentage of persons who do not have health insurance coverage. Behavioral risk factors in the region have a higher prevalence of obesity, smoking, lack of exercise and poor use of cancer screenings available than the U.S. national average. Again, the central subregion of Appalachia is among the most affected as this area tends to be more geographically rural. Nutrition is a major issue and low income levels often dictate poor food choices. Some areas may have only one small grocer with limited selections available. Exercise becomes more difficult for people who become obese, which often leads
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