Every third Thursday of November, the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health celebrates National Rural Health Day. This day offers the opportunity to “Celebrate the Power of Rural” by giving us a chance to bring to light the unique healthcare challenges that rural citizens face, and showcase the efforts of rural healthcare providers, State Offices of Rural Health, and other rural stakeholders to address those challenges.
The Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) states the following:
Approximately 20% of the U.S. population—about 60 million people—live in rural areas, which make up 97% of the land area in the United States. People living in rural America have less access to health care and are more likely than residents of urban areas to die from heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lower respiratory disease. The disparities and health care challenges facing rural America call for additional rigorous scientific research, successful implementation of evidence-based practice in rural settings and the use of innovative technology to improve rural health outcomes.
Thousands of families live in rural America, and, while many have access to healthcare, there is a large number that don’t. Rural Arizona is one example. According to Jill Guernsey de Zapien at the University of Arizona, Border Patrol checkpoints in Cochise County (a southeastern AZ county on the border with Mexico) are strategically and consistently placed “near where federally qualified community health centers are. Clearly, even people that are totally documented and have some member of their family undocumented within six degrees of separation, it makes them really nervous to have to go through those kinds of checkpoints, and they will choose not to do it.”
Farmworkers may feel further inhibitions because of the cost of healthcare, their own immigration status, work schedules, limited access to transportation, and more. Whatever the case, our goal should be for everyone to have access to healthcare, especially those that make sure we have food in our tables. Access to quality and comprehensive healthcare services is essential to the well-being of everyone living in rural areas.
During National Rural Health Day (and every day), AFOP Health & Safety Programs celebrates and is grateful for all the migrant clinics that offer medical assistance to thousands of farmworkers living in remote areas and facing unique challenges.