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N.C. Task Force Offers Suggestions for Rural Health

A task force responsible for finding ways to improve rural health in North Carolina has released a report offering several recommendations, according to a recent article in the News Observer.   

The task force recommended that the state, employers, health care providers, and nonprofits focus on economic development, education, and other factors that can impact health. Other suggestions included providing more child care, educating residents on insurance options, and recruiting and retaining health-care professionals in rural areas.

Recruiting doctors and nurses to rural areas has been a frequent news topic in the state. The University of North Carolina's School of Medicine recently received an endowment that will allow the school to expand and continue a program that places medical students in rural, underserved communities. Western Carolina University recently received a $500,000 grant to create a nursing program that will train students for careers in rural areas.

Rural children are often more at risk for health conditions like obesity and diabetes than their urban peers, but are also more likely to lack health care. One newly-released study of children in Ohio found that the state's rural population has become increasingly impoverished, and rural children lack access to medical clinics and community resources like gyms and playgrounds that can mitigate the effects of poor health.

A recent report by The Rural School and Community Trust ranked North Carolina as one of the top five rural "priority" states. Nearly half of the state's students attend rural schools, and more than half of rural students qualify for free or reduced price lunches. The state has one of the highest unemployment rates for rural adults and a high number of rural minority students. According to the article, more than 22 percent of rural residents in North Carolina live in poverty, compared to less than 17 percent of urban residents. 

You can read the full task force report here.

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