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Report: Ohio's Rural-Urban Child Health Gap Expanding

Kids in rural Ohio suffer from more health ailments than their urban peers, partly due to an increase in rural child poverty, according to a recent report by the Children's Defense Fund in Ohio.

The report examined several factors, including the rates of child obesity, food insecurity, and access to medical care, to determine how rural children fare compared to urban or suburban children. Researchers found that while the statewide child poverty rate grew by 75 percent between 2002 and 2012, child poverty grew by 92 percent in rural, non-Appalachian parts of the state. Children in rural parts of the state were more likely to be obese, experience food insecurity, and lack access to health care, which the report's authors attributed partly to growing poverty levels, as well as to limited access to medical clinics, grocery stores, and community resources like gyms and playgrounds.

Nationwide, the rural student population has become increasingly low-income, according to a recent report from The Rural School and Community Trust. More than two in five rural children lived in poverty during the 2010-11 school year, and nearly 47 percent qualified for free or reduced price lunch, an increase of five percentage points from the previous year. Across the country, rural children are more likely than their urban peers to suffer from a range of health issues, like obesity, asthma, or diabetes.

The report suggests several solutions to improve health disparities among children in Ohio, including teaching families how to grow healthy food, promoting child fitness programs, and expanding telemedicine and mobile dental vans to reach more rural children. The authors of the report also suggested that Ohio reform its medical education to encourage and incentivize more physicans to practice in rural areas. 

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