Mountain Area Health Education Center Expands Training in Family Medicine and Adds New Programs in Psychiatry and General Surgery
Nationwide, rural populations suffer from lack of access to health care . Even though 19.3% of the national population lives in rural areas , only 8.9% of physicians practice in those areas . This maldistribution contributes to a troubling disparity in health care access between urban and rural populations; there are 380.5 physicians per 100,000 people in urban areas, while there are only 118.3 physicians per 100,000 people in rural areas . Furthermore, rural populations are more likely to have worse health outcomes . Compared to urban populations, rural residents are more likely to suffer from mental illness and chronic disease—such as ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and obesity—and rural residents have higher rates of adolescent pregnancy and higher overall mortality rates [1, 5]. National Shortage Affects Rural Western North Carolina This disparity can be seen in rural counties in North Carolina, including those in Western North Carolina. Increasing the number of physicians practicing within the state as a whole has not improved physician shortages in rural areas. When compared to national averages, the number of physicians per capita has actually grown faster in North Carolina than in the rest of the country . However, North Carolina's overall physician-to-population ratio is misleading. As Fraher and Spero noted, “North Carolina's physician workforce is concentrated in counties where there are academic medical centers and in urban areas” . This maldistribution leaves rural counties critically underserved, including those in Western North Carolina. To compound this issue, North Carolina is also experiencing…
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