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Rural Americans see a rise in preventable disease death rates, CDC reports

Rural Americans are dying from preventable disease at a higher rate than their urban counterparts. That’s according to federal health officials.

Rural residents have for decades died from cancer, strokes, heart and respiratory diseases at higher rates than people living in cities.

But that gap has been growing, according to a report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1999, the death rate of rural Americans was 7% higher than their urban counterparts. In 2019, it was 20% higher. The report found that disparity continued through 2022.

The disparity in rural areas stems from an array of factors, including higher rates of tobacco and alcohol use and limited access to preventive medicine or other health care services.

Matt Kelley with the Montana Public Health Institute said state leaders need to invest more in the public health system. He said not just for traditional tobacco and drug prevention programs, but for mental health supports as well.

“Mental health, it has an impact on cancer, heart disease, stroke and all those things because it impacts your ability to do healthy things, to live a healthy life,” Kelley said.

Kelley said more also needs to be done to increase access to healthy food and eliminate food deserts across the state.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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