It’s no secret that living in a coastal city in America comes with certain perks. There tend to be more stores, hospitals, schools, and other establishments that Middle America just doesn’t have that much of. Of course, there are downsides, such as higher rent and home costs, and a denser population, but many find the lure of coastal cities to outweigh any negatives. And now, a new study in has shown another perk of living in a city, rather than near farmlands and nature. As it turns out, maternal health care is seriously lacking in rural America, and it’s impacting a lot of lives.
The study, published in the Health Affairs journal, found that “45 percent of rural U.S. counties had no hospital obstetric services at all during the study period,” which ranged from 2004 to 2014. However, at the end of the study period, that percentage rose quite significantly, according to The Washington Post. “By 2014, 54 percent of communities lacked those services,” the study reported. “That leaves 2.4 million women of child-bearing age living in counties without hospitals that deliver babies.”
So, while many in America have their choice of prime hospitals with luxurious birthing suits, so many women don’t even have any hospitals to choose from. For them, any hospital with obstetric services would do.
Per The Washington Post, the Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia, Georgia is one of the only hospitals in the region that still offers obstetrics services. Speaking to the newspaper, Alan Kent, the hospital’s chief executive described what has been happening in rural areas everywhere over the past decade:
Most of the rural hospitals around us, at one time or another delivered babies over the last eight to nine years. Two hospitals have closed. The three remaining hospitals that had maternity wards ceased their women’s services and stopped delivering babies. We’re seeing an increase in women who deliver with no prenatal care.
And, unfortunately, these findings are nothing new. As reported by Scientific American in February, “fewer than half of rural women live within a 30-minute drive of the nearest hospital offering obstetric services. Only about 88 percent of women in rural towns live within a 60-minute drive, and in the most isolated areas that number is 79 percent.”
However, The Washington Post also reported that the National Health Service Corps, a newer federal program, is working to end the maternal health care in rural America crisis. The program promises to pay for medical students’ school “as long as they commit to practicing in an underserved community for a given period of time.”
So, with that program in place, hopefully more obstetricians will be willing to move to rural America to help these pregnant women — because it shouldn’t matter where they live, all expectant parents in the United States should be able to have adequate maternal health care.