Healthcare Disparities: Rural Appalachia’s Higher Cancer Death Rates

Appalachia's healthcare disparities are partly because of a lack of access to healthcare providers.
Appalachia’s healthcare disparities results from a lack of access to healthcare providers.

Rural Appalachia used to have the lowest cancer death rate in the country. But since the late 1960s, cancer incidence has decreased throughout the rest of the U.S. and increased in Appalachia. That’s left Appalachia on the opposite end of the scale — with the highest cancer death rates in the country.

These statistics from a news release tell more of the story. UVA researchers found:

  • From 2007-11, cancer death rates were 14.7 percent higher in the rural Appalachian counties in Virginia than in non-Appalachian urban areas in the rest of the U.S.
  • In the rural Appalachian parts of Kentucky, mortality rates were 36 percent higher during that time frame.

Healthcare Disparities in Appalachia

Researcher Nengliang (Aaron) Yao, PhD, of the School of Medicine and the UVA Cancer Center, says the disparities begin with prevention and screening. “When we talk about healthcare access … they are really far away from a lot of comprehensive cancer centers. So, they don’t get as much screening as other people do, and when they get cancer, they don’t get same quality of cancer treatments or new treatments.”

In this week’s podcast, Yao goes into more detail about Appalachia’s cancer crisis.

Listen to the podcast:

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