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Study highlights healthcare disparities between North Carolina's rural and urban areas

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A new study highlights health care disparities between the urban and rural areas of North Carolina.

The 2022 Rural Snapshot was released by the North Carolina Rural Health Association. The report assesses over 30 health indicators in mental health care, maternity services, and access to primary care.

The findings reveal “significant challenges” for the state’s rural communities, many exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, out of the state’s 100 counties, 30 have no active practicing psychologist. A number of maternity units in rural areas have closed in the past decade. And in many of these communities, there is a higher rate of unhealthy behaviors, but less access to medical care and nutritious foods.

Donald Hughes is a director at the Foundation for Health Leadership and Innovation, based in Cary. Hughes says the report lays the groundwork for improvement in North Carolina.

“What we hope this will do is really to provide the data that will help our leaders across the state, whether they're elected officials, community-based organizations, folks in our general assembly to really utilize this information to make sound decisions on behalf of our rural residents," he said.

A virtual event will be held Thursday morning, which is National Rural Health Day, to honor the state’s health professionals and volunteers.