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Archive for the ‘Rural Health’ Category

SCR Regional Highlight: University of Arkansas assists displaced Marshall Islands community

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

The Marshall Islands – Majuro – Window by Stefan Lins is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

marshall islands

In the Pacific Ocean near the equator and just west of the international dateline, there is a small country known as the Marshall Islands, which has a population of 53,000 inhabitants. Somewhat similarly, if you head to Springdale, Arkansas, located in the northwest corner of the state, you will find not only the Consulate of the Marshall Islands, but the largest community of Marshallese Americans in the continental U.S., with an estimated population between 6,000 and 14,000.

The Marshall Islands have become a place of despair and great poverty. It was the site of 67 nuclear tests that occurred over a 12-year period; in 1956, the Marshall Islands was called “the most contaminated place on Earth” by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.

In 1986, after the war had ended, the Marshall Islands became their own fully sovereign nation, but also became a U.S. Associated State, receiving assistance from the U.S., and also allowing Marshallese to travel and work within the U.S. without a visa. Springdale, Arkansas became the best immigration option after the first Marshallese to arrive, John Moody, sent back word about jobs available at Tyson Foods, where the company is headquartered.

And while 1,000s of Marshallese traveled halfway across the world to to escape the poverty and health issues, they are still plagued by diseases including diabetes, heart disease and cancer, some of which stem from the nuclear tests, but others that occurred after the fact; like how U.S. food aid to the Marshall Islands came in the form of processed items, which have contributed to the diabetes among the population as well as obesity.

Besides having a general distrust for health professionals, causing them not to seek medical treatment, many Marshallese also have no way to afford it, as the U.S. rescinded Medicaid and Medicare following the original 1986 agreement, leaving many without any form of health insurance.

But there is some hope for the Marshallese in Springdale, Arkansas. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Library has begun a program to assist those displaced Marshallese, in part through funding by NNLM SCR. By teaching classes to Marshallese health workers and raising awareness for the health literacy information available, UAMS hopes to be able to eventually improve the overall health of the Marshallese of Northwest Arkansas. It will just take time.

To read more about the Marshallese population in Springdale, please visit “For Pacific Islanders, Hopes and Troubles in in Arkansas.”

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SCR Regional Highlight: Texas Colonias See Increased Health Problems

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

Colonias. If you’re from a border state, you may be quite familiar with this word, as it is generally used to describe unsanitary or unsafe housing located along the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

In Texas, colonias date back to at least the 1950s; developed as unincorporated subdivisions because the land was agriculturally worthless, they were sold at very low prices to low-income individuals. According to the Texas Secretary of State, colonias are defined as a residential area along the Mexico-Texas border which lacks basic necessities, like potable water, sewer systems, electricity, paved roads and simply safe and sanitary housing.

As one may assume by this definition, the health of many of the nearly 500,000 colonia residents is poor.

According to a New York Times article, in the highest health risk colonias water- and mosquito-borne illnesses are rampant due to no sewer system or wastewater disposal. There are high rates of asthma, rashes and lice infestations because of the burning garbage, mold and large amount of cockroaches and rodents. But still, there are more health ailments.

Because they have poor diets, as many people in poverty do, they have poor dental hygiene, diabetes, and other diseases. But what’s worse is most of these residents have no means to help themselves. There is no easy solution of going to the doctor. With many without health insurance and little access to healthcare clinics, they have no way to receive treatment.

Thankfully, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. More rural healthcare clinics are opening to fulfill this need that is so desperately needed for colonias. Like the University of Texas recently opened a new campus—University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, which currently has its inaugural class. This new medical school will not only bring in medical students from around the country but will also allow students to serve the population they grew up in.

To read more about Texas colonias, please visit the following resources:

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Economic Growth in Rural Areas Will Lead to Better Rural Health

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

“Photo” by Anjie Webbie is licensed under CC0.

Rural AreaWe know we’ve been stressing rural health a lot lately, but it’s a very important health issue, as a large population of our region are in rural areas. In fact, 33.4 million people in 2000 in our area were considered rural populations.

Here’s the state-by-state breakdown based off of 2000 Census data:

We wanted to share a New York Times article expressing the opinions of some professionals in the field on what can, should and needs to be done to positively impact rural growth. Much of their advice focuses on the economic growth of these rural towns, but economic growth goes hand-in-hand with rural health. Rural Health Information Hub puts it best: “A robust community helps to support and sustain quality health services for its residents by attracting quality healthcare professionals.”

The thoughts and opinions range from some things that seem so simple, like easy access and constant access to an internet connection, to more robust ideas like the wage gap.

The writers are:

  • Whitney Kimball Coe, director of National Programs at the Center for Rural Health
  • Jason Bailey, executive director of Kentucky Center for Economic Policy
  • Katherine Cramer, author of The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker
  • Edward Conrad, author of The Upside of Inequality: How Good Intentions Undermine the Middle Class
  • Tom Vilsack, U.S. secretary of Agriculture

So now we ask you, especially those in rural populations: what can best help you?

To read the New York Times article, please visit “Helping Rural America Catch Up.”

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Dental Care Limitation and Rural Health

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

“Photo” by Yingpis Kalayom is licensed under CC0.


How do you go about finding a dentist? Ask friends and coworkers where they go? Look at online reviews on Google, Yelp and the like? For millions of Americans, it’s not that simple. The rural poor, many of whom rely on Medicaid, have slim dental options, if any.

A recent article by NPR tells the story of Wisconsinite Jessica Stefonik, who at 31 had all of her upper teeth pulled and was fitted for dentures. The article shines light on the sad facts about U.S. dental care, like a quarter of Americans went without dental care in 2014 because they couldn’t afford it. Or that four states don’t offer any dental insurance for Medicaid beneficiaries, and 15 states only offer dental insurance for emergency care.

In the SCR region, 50 to 70 percent share of need is met in Texas and Louisiana, while in New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arkansas, only 30 to 50 percent share of need is met.

But facilities like the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin are changing that by offering all dental services to those rural populations completely through Medicaid.

Read more about rural dental health at “A Good Dentist is Hard to Find in Rural America.”

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