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How does the lack of healthcare access affect population health and well-being in a community?

Updated: Feb 8

According to Access to Care: Populations in Counties with No FQHC, RHC, or Acute Care Hospital, rural populations have more limited access to primary care physicians than residents of urban areas, and are older, sicker, and poorer than urban counterparts.


Travel to reach a primary care provider may be costly and burdensome for patients living in remote rural areas, with subspecialty care often being even farther away. These patients may substitute local primary care providers for subspecialists or they may decide to postpone or forego care. Access in Brief: Rural and Urban Health Care compares access to care and use of services for rural and urban adults and children with Medicaid coverage.

According to the 2014 RUPRI Health Panel report, Access to Rural Health Care - A Literature Review and New Synthesis, barriers to healthcare result in unmet healthcare needs, including a lack of preventive and screening services and treatment of illnesses. A vital rural community is dependent on the health of its population. While access to medical care does not guarantee good health, access to healthcare is critical for a population's well-being and optimal health.

The challenges that rural residents face in accessing healthcare services contribute to health disparities. To learn more about disparities in health outcomes, see RHIhub's Rural Health Disparities topic guide.

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