Disparities in Preventable Premature Deaths Highlighted in Rural Communities

In rural areas of Montana, residents are facing high percentages of preventable premature deaths, particularly in noncore counties. Disparities in premature deaths were found to vary by cause and were associated with demographic factors such as race and ethnicity. Data on disparities in cause-specific premature deaths are needed to develop interventions and health care policies that address the specific needs of different racial and ethnic groups. A follow-up analysis focused on race and ethnicity is expected to provide further insights into reducing preventable premature deaths in both rural and urban counties.

The reduction in preventable premature deaths from cancer has been notable, with urban areas showing the greatest improvement due to better access to preventive services and treatment. Factors contributing to the decline in cancer mortality include increased screening rates for leading cancer types, vaccination rates for cancer-causing viruses, and decreased prevalence of risk factors like tobacco use. However, disparities persist, with higher rates of premature deaths observed in micropolitan and noncore counties, emphasizing the need for targeted efforts to reduce cancer-related deaths in rural areas.

Injuries from unintentional incidents, such as drug overdoses, motor vehicle accidents, and falls, are driving an increase in preventable premature deaths. Rural-urban disparities in these deaths have widened, with urban areas experiencing worsening rates. Access to treatment for drug overdoses remains limited in rural counties, contributing to the disparity. Efforts to increase access to interventions and promote safety measures like seat belt use are crucial in reducing these preventable deaths.

Disparities in preventable premature deaths from heart disease and stroke continue to exist between rural and urban areas. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these disparities, with increased mortality rates associated with heart disease and stroke. Factors such as delayed emergency care and decreased hospital admissions for these conditions during the pandemic have contributed to the rise in preventable deaths. Control of hypertension, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, has also been impacted by limited access to healthcare during the pandemic.

Despite some progress in larger urban areas, preventable premature deaths from Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease (CLRD) have remained stable in medium and small urban counties and rural areas. The impact of COVID-19 on deaths attributed to CLRD has been significant, highlighting the interconnectedness of respiratory health and the challenges faced by individuals with chronic respiratory conditions.

Efforts to reduce preventable premature deaths in both rural and urban areas must address the underlying disparities in access to healthcare, preventive services, and treatment. Targeted interventions based on demographic factors, geographic location, and specific health conditions are essential in improving outcomes and reducing premature deaths across communities.