Barriers to Healthcare in Rural America
By Ernest Johnson, Pranav Kosuri, Alanna Langdon, Naga Ritvika Yeyuvuri
For many Americans who live in rural places, accessing healthcare comes with significant barriers. The most pressing issues are: a lack of healthcare education, corporate and government policies that produce those barriers, provider and patient burnout, and institutional racism disproportionately affecting communities of color. Over four million North Carolinians live in rural communities, which the US Census Bureau defines as places with less than 2,500 residents. Compared to the national average, North Carolina faces these issues at twice the frequency, making these problems all the more common. Behind all these statistics, there are real people with real stories who see these challenges almost every day.
We have Denise Hunter, a physician working in the Caswell community who sees every day how the lack of healthcare education plagues her patients’ health. She works hard to treat and educate patients who are unable to effectively take care of themselves due to the lack of knowledge. Treston Clark-LaRue, a Physician Assistant and public health student in Harnett County is actively working to aid the HIV crisis in this community; however, due to the lack of resources for patients and the stigma surrounding the disease in rural areas, many people are going untreated. It may be challenging to see how a lack of mental healthcare could be a barrier to general healthcare; Tracy Salisbury, from Alamance County, comes from a family plagued with mental illness. Her mother suffered from depression and attempted suicide while her sister had bipolar disorder. Their stories revolve around the lack of mental health support in their lives. Chastity Hargrove, from a rural town near Dunn, describes the challenges her mother faced with her schizophrenia and the stigma associated with receiving help in rural places. Lamenting how government and corporate policies conspire against everyday citizens, Brad Barringer, a small-business owner in Stanly County chastises how the Affordable Care Act increased the amount of red tape and bureaucratic waste his business has to navigate to offer insurance to his employees. Additionally, Ebony Talley-Brame, a small-business owner in Warrenton, illustrates why existing government and corporate healthcare policies were failing her community, and how she and her husband had to take matters into their own hands. Racial minorities suffer even more from the already mistrusted healthcare system. Carol Fields recently moved from California to rural North Carolina and explains how “Black people have no power” when it comes to making decisions about their social, physical, and mental well-being, and Lata Chatterjee is an immigrant and medical student from Pittsboro explains how her symptoms were dismissed and misdiagnosed for years by medical professionals due to discrimination. These are just a few of the many stories of a rural healthcare crisis.