Rural & Underserved

Rural & Underserved

The quality of health among Florida’s rural residents continues to be of increasing concern.  West Florida AHEC not only strives to improve the health of those in our metropolitan areas and the health of those in our counties’ rural areas likewise, the medically underserved areas (MUAs) and health professional shortage areas (HPSAs) are also of great concern.

According to the Florida Department of Health:

  • There are large populations of underinsured/uninsured persons in rural communities, usually exceeding the proportions observed in urban communities.
  • Health personnel, including physicians, nurses, dentists, and other direct service providers are maldistributed across the state, often with actual surpluses in urban areas and shortages in rural areas.
  • Rural community members often lack physical and/or financial access to dental, mental and/or visual health services.
  • Rural hospitals typically suffer financial hardships due to small community sizes, lack of health insurance in their communities, overall lower incomes in their communities, lower levels of Medicare reimbursement, outdated/aging physical plants, and constantly increasing costs due to technological innovations and costs of pharmaceuticals and other supplies.

Additionally, rural residents “are more likely to use tobacco and have especially high rates of smokeless tobacco use.”  The use of smokeless tobacco is nearly twice as common as other forms of tobacco. The American Lung Association states that “rural Americans are also more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke and less likely to have access to programs that help them quit smoking.  Secondhand smoke is a health risk that cannot be ignored.  “Exposure to secondhand smoke is also higher as rural communities are less likely to have smoke free air laws in place and less likely to have voluntary restrictions on smoking indoors.”

Therefore, West Florida AHEC, alongside its strong partnerships with community and government organizations, is on a mission to promote health and wellness in its 4-county service area.

Learn more about how West Florida AHEC seeks to achieve its mission by reading About Us.