An individual living in south Arkansas had a life expectancy of ten years less than their neighbor in northwest Arkansas. (Arkansas Department of Health, 2016).
Lower life expectancy is due to many factors, including differences in physical activity, smoking, preventable hospital stays, and violent crime rates (County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, 2019).
Perhaps the most critical determinant of these factors is access, including access to education, employment, transportation, and healthcare providers (preventive, primary & emergent services).
- Estimated number of recent, significant employer closings/downsizing in service area: 20.
- Since the 2017-2018 school year, seven schools have closed and two schools consolidated with other schools. Most of these schools were closed due to lack of enrollment (outward migration). (Arkansas Department of Education, self-reported data accessed September 2019)
- There is only a handful of public transit options within the service area, none of which are free. This increases transportation barriers for residents.
- Mean travel time to work: 14.6 min average (service area) - lowest: 14.6, highest: 29.7 min. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 - 2017)
- Average travel time to a grocery store: 20 - 40 min.
Since 2010, 93 rural hospitals have closed across the United States. Of the 26 states with closures, most of them occurred in the South, according to research completed by the NorthCarolina Rural Health Research Program(2018).
Recent Medicare cuts, Medicaid reductions, and new federal regulations have created the perfect storm for Critical Access Hospitals (CAH), placing many in critical condition. A single rural hospital closure can have a devastating impact on a town, including loss of patient encounters, healthcare and community jobs, and even the economic stability of the region.
- 7 out of 15 hospitals in the service area are critical access hospitals. Critical access hospitals have 25 or fewer acute care inpatient beds and are located more than 35 miles from another hospital, exceptions may apply (RHIhub, 2019).
- 20 counties within the service area are designated as a Medically Underserved Area (MUA) with the exception of Jefferson andUnion Counties [which have multiple service areas designated as MUA rather than county-wide] (HRSA Data Warehouse, 2019).
- 86 miles: the average length of distance between EMS providers. Only 4 EMS providers serve 12 counties - with some distances of 1.5+hr. Range: 22 miles - 150 miles.
- There is not a single hospital in the22 county service area with a dedicated labor
& delivery floor. Only half of the counties have capabilities to deliver a baby.