The impact of rural health care accessibility on cancer-related behaviors and outcomes

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Background: This research seeks to identify the relationship between economic factors related to the ability to receive and pay for health services and adverse cancer outcomes, as well as preventative screening and behavioral factors that influence the risk of cancer. We focus on the Northern High Plains region, where we are able to compare regions with extremely low access to health services with those with relatively high levels of access.
 Objective: This study aims to identify health disparities in rural communities, particularly among Native American populations, and, thereby, begin to determine the most effective means by which to deliver health services to areas where geography, economics, and culture might prevent traditional models of health delivery from providing sufficient incentives for the prevention of adverse cancer-related outcomes.
 Methods: The Health Care Accessibility Index (HCAI) is computed through the use of principal component analysis and includes economic variables as well as variables concerning institutional and geographic access to health care. Index values are then regressed onto cancer outcomes, cancer-prevention outcomes, and cancer-related risk, using weighted least squares and quantile regressions.

 Results: Counties with relatively poor access to health care (low HCAI) also have statistically (1) lower breast cancer screening rates, (2) higher smoking prevalence, and (4) higher cancer-related mortality rates. Breast cancer screening is found to be especially sensitive to areas of low health accessibility.

 Conclusions: Empirical results provide support for policy efforts to increase the accessibility of health care services that are targeted to areas with mammography screening rates, high obesity rates, high smoking prevalence, as well as areas near Native American reservation territories.



Public health, Oncology


Belasco, Eric J., Gordon Gong, Barbara Pence, and Ethan Wilkes. "The Impact of Rural Health Care Accessibility on Cancer-Related Behaviors and Outcomes." Applied Health Economics and Health Policy (2014): 1-10.
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