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Rural Health

RURAL HEALTH: AVAILABILITY, ACCESSIBILITY AND AFFORDABILITY

Access to high-quality health care, including both preventative and sick care, is a crucial component of living a healthy life—and every North Carolinian deserves access to quality health care, regardless of socioeconomic status, zip code, ability, or any other factor.

This access is especially critical in unserved and underserved areas of our state, where the populations tend to be older and/or have underlying health conditions that necessitate a greater offering of care. Additionally, the recruitment and retention of health care providers across the state is a necessary component to ensuring that rural North Carolinians are able to access care when they need it.

With rural hospitals closures steadily rising (11 have closed since 2005), when rural residents are in need of emergency care, they are most likely to seek that care from their local hospital—and not having that critical health care infrastructure creates an economic burden an entire community will grapple with.

Though our state has done an increasingly good job of expanding telehealth, without comprehensive access to broadband, many rural residents are unable to take advantage of these resources. Furthermore, virtual access to health providers does not and should not supersede the clear gap in access to a variety of healthcare providers within our rural communities. While there are clear challenges here, our state has made steady strides in the right direction.

North Carolina has a robust network of nonprofit, private, philanthropic, corporate, community, and government entities that have ramped up their services, innovated new approaches, and advocated diligently for their various constituencies. Together, we are doing our part to support our communities.

 

RECOMMENDED ACTIONS

  • Close the health insurance coverage gap in North Carolina.
  • Expand efforts to recruit and retain rural health providers, including specialists in underserved areas of the state.
  • Implement recommendations for a statewide telemedicine policy made by DHHS in 2017.
  • Investigate opportunities to attract mid-level health care providers to rural areas by allowing full practice authority and increasing scope of practice.
  • Explore broad-based solutions for the substance abuse crisis that address both prevention and treatment.
  • Support the Healthy North Carolina 2030 attainment goals that seek to holistically address and improve the health, safety, and well-being of North Carolinians.