Beyond COVID-19, rural areas face growing threat from chronic heart and lung diseases

Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last May found the death rate from heart disease is significantly higher in rural areas, and the disparity between rural and urban mortality nearly doubled from 1999 to 2017. Among people aged 25-64 years, progress in heart disease mortality is reversing.

Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last May found the death rate from heart disease is significantly higher in rural areas, and the disparity between rural and urban mortality nearly doubled from 1999 to 2017. Among people aged 25-64 years, progress in heart disease mortality is reversing. Meanwhile, chronic lung disease is the fourth most common cause of death nationwide. A separate study found that rural Americans had a 61% higher likelihood of dying from chronic lung disease than Americans living in large metropolitan areas, with most increases in deaths seen in middle-aged Whites. Tackling chronic disease in rural areas will require a comprehensive approach rather than only building more brick-and-mortar hospitals. For instance, pharmacist-led management of high blood pressure has been shown to be successful. Pharmacists can have a notable effect on health by making sure that people have access to preventive treatments. In addition, community health workers who provide high-quality outpatient care need to cooperate with efficient emergency services that manage acute conditions and promptly refer higher acuity patients to larger hospitals. As advocated by the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association in a recent call to action, rural care should be regionalized.