Suburbanites fare better in key health indicators

November 1, 2001

Pharmaceutical Representative

Americans who live in the suburbs fare significantly better in many key health measures than those who live in the most rural and most urban areas.

Americans who live in the suburbs fare significantly better in many key health measures than those who live in the most rural and most urban areas, according to "Health, United States, 2001, with Urban and Rural Health Chartbook," a report released by the Department of Health and Human Services. The 25th annual statistical report on the nation's health is the first to look at health status relative to communities' level of urbanization.

People who live in the most rural and most urban areas have higher mortality rates for working-age adults than suburban residents, the report found.

Those who live in the suburbs of large metropolitan areas have the lowest infant mortality rates and are more likely to have health insurance and healthy lifestyles. These variations also frequently track other demographic factors, such as income and race.

"Geography alone does not determine health status, but this report performs a valuable service by helping us understand where the most rural and urban communities can target public health efforts to close the gaps," said HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson.

Findings of the report also indicate that:


•Â The highest death rates for young people were in the most rural counties.


•Â Residents of rural areas had the highest death rates for unintentional injuries generally and for motor-vehicle injuries specifically. Homicide rates were highest in the central counties of large metropolitan areas.


•Â Suburban residents were more likely to exercise during leisure time and more likely to have health insurance.


•Â Both the most rural and most urban areas had a similarly high percentage of residents without health insurance.


•Â Teenagers and adults in rural counties were the most likely to smoke. Residents of the most rural communities also reported the fewest visits for dental care.

Economic factors

Communities at different urbanization levels differ in terms of age, race, ethnicity, income and other factors that affect health status. Access to routine and emergency healthcare, air quality and other factors also affect a community's health status.

"Clearly, prevention plays a role in the urban-rural patterns we've observed," said Jeffrey P. Koplan, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Those communities where citizens are able to lead healthier lifestyles and adopt the healthy habits that prevent illness and injury see the results in many tangible ways." PR