Rural communities have notoriously poor access to healthcare. Many towns are miles removed from the nearest hospital, while more still simply don’t have the equipment and expertise available to address the community that they are serving.
When the resources aren’t there, it’s important to take matters into your own hands.
In this article, we look at how you can improve your health in rural areas.
Wearable Health Technology
Wearable health technology is changing the way people all over the world monitor their health and wellness. Health stats that could once only be recorded during a visit to the doctor’s office are now available on-demand any time the wearer wishes to review them.
Valuable intel for anyone, to be sure, but particularly vital in rural communities, where health services may be more difficult to access. For people who live in areas that might be many miles removed from a hospital, wearables can help detect issues with things like heart rate, blood pressure, and other issues that can typically be addressed and treated effectively when they are caught early.
Fitbits are perhaps the most ubiquitous wearable health devices, but they are far from the only options available. While step trackers are great for monitoring fitness goals, other wearables can monitor your heart and other vital statistics that give you up to the minute data.
These devices are particularly vital for people with preexisting conditions. Glucose monitors, for example, can be life-changing for diabetics. Where once people with diabetes had to worry about their blood sugar levels dropping in the night, glucose monitors can now track their vitals in their sleep, sending alerts when levels drop too low. These alerts can even be sent to family members to ensure that assistance is applied where needed.
Mobile Health Clinics
Mobile health clinics are a great resource designed specifically for people without regular access to care. Equipped with all of the equipment you’ll encounter in the average general practitioner’s office, they are a fast, flexible, and private way to get treated.
Unfortunately, not every community has access to mobile healthcare clinics. However, as awareness of healthcare access inequality spreads, and the technology proliferates, more and more mobile units will go active in the coming years. Currently, there are an estimated 2000 mobile units in circulation throughout the United States—a number that has only gone up in response to the pandemic.
In communities where healthcare access is challenging, preventative measures become more important than ever. Studies have shown that proper nutrition can be more vital even than exercise when it comes to preventing conditions like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Agricultural communities are often well-positioned to enjoy a diet that is rich in fresh, locally sourced fruits and vegetables. To maximize your nutritional health options, consider looking for a local farmer’s market. There, you will not only find healthy foods but you will also be given the opportunity to support local growers.
For people who need help with their nutritional decisions, it’s worth noting that there are a plethora of phone applications and other digital resources that allow you to track the foods you eat and receive a clear, easy-to-understand breakdown of their nutritional values.
People living in rural America are 20% more likely to die of heart disease than people living in the city. Undoubtedly, the discrepancy in healthcare access accounts for much, or all of this discrepancy. Nevertheless, the jarring difference in rural patient healthcare outcomes puts exercise at an even bigger premium than it otherwise would have been.
Don’t rural workers get exercise naturally, with their jobs?
Some jobs that are common in rural areas, particularly within the agricultural industry are very physically demanding. However, even very physically vigorous work cannot replace a targeted exercise regiment.
For example, a day of planting and plowing, while difficult, may not raise your heart rate for a prolonged period of time the same way that a brisk thirty-minute jog would. Your arms and back might grow strong from agricultural work, but your heart isn’t necessarily seeing the benefits.
The Surgeon General recommends at least thirty minutes of exercise every day. Consider developing a weekly exercise regiment that targets your cardiovascular system as well as your general health.
While mental health care has gradually experienced a destigmatization over the last several years, it remains true that many rural areas lack access to high-quality care. Mobile health clinics have been able to bridge some of these service gaps. However, access remains difficult for millions of people living across the country.
Difficult doesn’t mean impossible.
For people suffering from depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems, treatment is key. Talk to friends and family. Look for care providers in neighboring towns, and consider appropriate medication treatment regimens.
While it may not be possible to get regular in-person treatment in the area you live, there are other options. Telehealthcare professionals are able to connect remotely, through phone calls, or video chat. In recent years (most likely due to Covid) up to 60% of outpatient care has been handled remotely.
What’s more, preliminary evaluations suggest that telehealth treatment plans are just as effective as the traditional model, and may be more enticing for people who are, for whatever reason, hesitant to try therapy.
Meditation and Mindfulness
Meditation and mindfulness practices like yoga are strongly associated with reduced levels of stress and depression. There is also a strong correlation between yoga, meditation, and physical health. Yoga has the potential to boost fat loss, strengthen your metabolism, and generally improve your overall physical health.
Consider seeing what your community has to offer in way of yoga and mediation classes. If your options are sparse, look into online offerings. There are many remote communities on the internet that provide all the information you need to get started at home.