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.
 
Trapped under antiquated policies and infrastructure in communities with dwindling populations, some rural hospitals cannot afford to adapt to a rapidly evolving health care system.
Iron County has among the worst health outcomes in Wisconsin, with a high rate of premature death. The area suffers from high unemployment, high rates of mental illness, social isolation during winter months and childhood traumas.
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Wisconsin politicians have sparred over how to provide mental health resources to the state's farmers. UW-Extension agriculture and health safety specialist John Shutske discusses the groundwork necessary to help farmers struggling with mental health issues.
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.