Wisconsin Public Television

Series: Health In Rural Wisconsin

Rural life poses distinct obstacles when it comes to improving health outcomes. The reality of distance is paramount — getting to and from doctors' offices and hospitals requires more time, and when there is an emergency, that issue becomes acute. A related concern is the availability of healthcare providers across broader areas, particularly in places where population is decreasing. Moreover, rural populations are increasingly becoming proportionally older than the state as a whole, compounding difficulties related to mobility, specialized treatment and end-of-life care. Public health efforts in rural communities focus on preventive goals that are both universal and particular to specific groups of people or conditions. As the demographics, economy and environment of rural Wisconsin shifts, so do the health needs of its people.
 
Air pollution levels vary quite broadly across Wisconsin, but they follow a clear geographic trend.
The same aspects of rural life that are attractive to many Wisconsinites — solitude, space, smaller communities — can often make getting the health care they need a challenge that ranges from mere inconvenience to life-threatening.
Wisconsin is expected to be short at least 700 primary care providers by the year 2035. Wisconsin Council on Medical Education and Workforce executive director George Quinn discussed how the state is working to bridge the impending shortfall of physicians.
Even the most thorough batch of data will have its gaps and shortcomings, and it's part of public health researchers' job to try to better understand the big picture in spite of that limitation
The interactive Wisconsin Health Atlas reveals obesity rates around the state, and how different the needs of two ZIP codes within the same county can be.
Rural health challenges become even more stark when seconds can make the difference between life and death.
Many ambulance services in rural Wisconsin are facing hardships. They are often volunteer-driven, and face shortages of volunteers who can serve as EMTs.
People often look at alternative transportation as a big city issue. But rural communities in Wisconsin and around the country are facing the challenges of providing mobility to local residents — especially for an aging population.
While the incidence of cancer is lower among people who live in rural parts of the United States than more densely populated areas, they are more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, have less access to medical treatment and receive poorer quality of care than their urban counterparts.