Child and Maternal Health in Rural Areas Lags the Nation, Highlighting Barriers to Access
One in five Americans lives in a rural area, including about 18 million women of reproductive age, but key indicators, including mortality figures, show that the health of mothers and children in these communities lags behind that of their urban peers and is worsening. Nationwide, child mortality rates have declined over the past decade, but recent research shows that improvement among infants and young children has been much slower in rural areas. To reverse these disparities and improve overall outcomes, government agencies at all levels, as well as health providers, policymakers, and communities, must combine their expertise and resources to identify effective solutions that address the complex drivers of health and well-being among mothers and their children.
Many challenges contribute to disparities in health outcomes in rural areas, including closures of maternity units and hospitals and a growing shortage of primary care physicians, especially in the most remote places. But research also shows that many other factors contribute to health, such as housing, education, and transportation, and can play key roles in negative outcomes for women and children, including premature birth, low birth weight, maternal mortality, severe maternal morbidity, and increased risk of postpartum depression.