Rural Health

Image of stethoscope
Dr. Farouk / Flickr Creative Commons

People who live in rural North Carolina are still more likely to suffer from serious health problems than their urban counterparts. Rural counties show higher rates of heart disease and obesity, and rural residents have a lower life expectancy.

The recent closures of rural hospitals around the state makes those residents even more vulnerable. Research shows that systemic problems like slow economic development and spotty insurance coverage also contribute to rural health disparities.

Image of a nurse checking vitals.
Flickr/Londa Dudley

Campbell University plans to open a new School of Nursing in rural Harnett County in 2016. Graduates will earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Director Nancy Duffy says that's becoming the new standard for nursing jobs, especially with the population growing and Baby Boomers aging, dealing with more chronic illnesses.

“Really, healthcare needs an entirely different kind of nurse in the future. And I hope we're able to start changing that education to meet that healthcare need.”

Flickr user Josh Mazgelis

A bipartisan group of North Carolina lawmakers is proposing a measure to get more fruits and vegetables to urban and rural areas devoid of grocery stores or healthful food options.

The plan, filed in separate bills in the House and Senate on Tuesday, would set aside $1 million for produce refrigerators and training for store owners in areas known as food deserts. There are more than 340 food deserts across 80 counties in the state, advocacy groups say.

Image of a nurse checking vitals.
Flickr/Londa Dudley

Note: This is a rebroadcast of a show that aired May 5, 2014. 

A picture of Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neal
StoryofAmerica.org

Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neill says he's optimistic that the hospital in his town will reopen soon.

The non-profit Vidant Health closed the Pungo hospital there this summer, which served low-income and minority populations. 

Mayor O'Neill walked nearly 300 miles to Washington, D.C. to ask regulators to look into the closure.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has agreed to investigate whether Vidant's closing of the hospital has displayed unlawful discrimination based on race and national origin.

HealthServe is closing in Greensboro this week and 20,000 people will have to find a medical provider elsewhere.
Flickr.com

A state task force says rural communities need more strategic investments and partnerships to improve their residents' health. 

The North Carolina Institute of Medicine's Task Force on Rural Health released a report Monday about health disparities in rural counties. 

It says many of their childhood nutrition programs need more attention.  And local schools need more help to recruit health care professionals who will stay and work in rural North Carolina.

Nurse checking woman's blood pressure while family member watches
www.flickr.com / Dudley's Home Health

  

With days full of physical assessments, patient advocacy, connecting with patients' families, and communicating with physicians, a nurse’s work is never done. And when a hospital is understaffed or under-resourced, nurses take on more patients and extra shifts. 

Inside of an ambulance
adesigna / Flickr Creative Commons

EMS officials in an eastern North Carolina county will have to expand their services as another rural hospital shuts down. 

The Vidant Pungo Hospital in the town of Belhaven will be closed by next spring.  The facility is in Beaufort County, but it's the closest hospital for residents of neighboring Hyde County, which has about 6,000 people. 

Hyde County EMS director Justin Gibbs says the next closest facilities with emergency services are about 30 miles farther away.

"We're going to have to look at rewriting our system plan," Gibbs says.