Rural Americans are more likely to die by suicide and from chronic illness than their urban counterparts, and the health gap is widening. Researchers blame a number of factors for the disparity, including escalating rural hospital closures, shortages of doctors, a lack of public transportation and an older, sicker, poorer and less health-literate population than in metropolitan areas. Experts widely agree on what many rural communities need: greater access to broadband and telemedicine; more programs to attract young doctors; increased Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements to hospitals and physicians; improved public transportation; more economic opportunity; and greater flexibility for rural hospitals to enable them to better serve their communities. Many states and counties are creating innovative programs to address these challenges. But rural health stakeholders worry ...

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