5 charts that help explain Missouri’s urban-rural health gap

Missouri suffers from a case of health care inequality.

Residents of rural Missouri are less healthy than the state’s urban dwellers, and they’re more likely to die at a younger age, according to a report released last month by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, or DHSS.

But just how bad is the situation? How large is the health care gap in Missouri?

To get a sense, Missouri Business Alert gathered data from the DHSS, the U.S. Census Bureau and County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute.

Here’s a look at some data points from 2016, the most recent year for which statistics were available, that shed light on how rural and urban Missouri compare when it comes to health care:

Rural Missourians showed higher rates of obesity and physical inactivity, and slightly higher rates of frequent smoking. Meanwhile, urban residents were more likely to drink excessively and slightly more likely to be sleep-deprived.

(The DHSS defines urban counties as those with more than 150 persons per square mile. Missouri’s urban regions are Boone, Buchanan, Cass, Clay, Cole, Greene, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Newton, Platte, St. Charles and St. Louis counties, and the city of St. Louis.)

Residents of rural Missouri experienced slightly more poor health within one month than those in the urban areas.

Meanwhile, urban counties offered better access to health care resources than rural areas, with more than double the number of health care providers per resident.

Also, more rural residents lacked health insurance, which makes the health care environment even worse in rural Missouri.

In 2012, the latest year for which life expectancy statistics were available, urban Missourians tended to live longer than their rural counterparts.

The DHSS report also recommended conducting more research before proposing regulations in rural counties.

“Regulations and policies that may be good for hospitals and health care providers in large urban areas, may not be good for small rural hospitals or providers that may have severely limited resources,” the report said.


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