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CDC study shows rural Americans much more likely to die of preventable diseases.

A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the gap in health care coverage between rural and urban America is more dramatic than many realize. Rural Americans are much more likely to die from preventable or treatable conditions like heart disease or cancer.

Eastern Idaho is no exception. While many of the larger cities along the I-15/US 20 corridor have hospitals or instacares, many smaller towns outside the region’s population hub are an hour or more away from such services.

“The reasons why individuals have a tough time in getting care that they need to help prevent those preventable deaths is access to care,’ said James Corbett, a regional manager and nurse with Eastern Idaho Public Health (EIPH). “They lack access to specialty care, and access to care that they may need on an emergency basis.”

Corbett said other problems include lower rates of insurance coverage and people simply not having enough time to make the trek into town. Plus, doctors are often discouraged at the idea of setting up shop in a small town, as there may not be enough clientele to keep his or her office open.

These are just some of the reasons why EIPH sets up small town clinics to provide access to basic medical services.

“We try to provide the maintenance of the preventative care that we’re able to,” Corbett said. “But we’re not a complete substitute to going to your providers.”

Some of the clinics have permanent nurses stationed there, many others like the ones in Dubois and Mudlake have traveling nurses that visit on a weekly basis.

“I travel to Dubois once a week on Wednesdays to do immunization, reproductive health services, and perform other basic services,” said Brenda Bloom, a traveling nurse with EIPH. “It’s so rewarding because… you really get to know these people.”

Bloom said even though the Dubois clinic is only open once a week, she said she’s able to use her skills to help people in the area. “I’ve had in the past people that have come for years, that have seen me on a regular basis, or seen me when they have a question,” said Bloom.

Bloom and other nurses reiterated that they’re not meant to replace doctors, but they can help people know if they should make the trek into town. “There are times when people come in and you say, you need to go to the doctor today, or you need to call an ambulance,” said Bloom.

In addition to the clinics, other medical outlets are getting creative to provide medical services to rural Idahoans.

Regional hospitals like Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center provide 24/7 dial-a-nurse programs. On the EIRMC website, people who simply want to get a professional opinion from a pediatric nurse, can call one before they decide to drive into an instacare or the ER. EIRMC wants to emphasize that while this is a useful tool, it is not a substitute for an actual doctors visit.

Lost River Medical Center even provides telemedicine psychiatric services, where people can get psychiatric help over the phone or over video conferencing.

A link to the CDC’s original study and press release can be found HERE.

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