Rural Health Disparities in WNC

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Western North Carolina is home to nearly one million people living in 18 counties. On average, our primarily rural region is poorer, older, and less resourced than other areas of the state, but our communities are close-knit, innovative, and resilient.

Some of our region's most pressing rural health challenges include:

Limited Health Workforce

  • All 16 WNC counties are primary care health professional shortage areas
  • Only 3 out of 5 adults in WNC had a dental visit in the past year
  • 8 WNC counties have no practicing general psychiatrist
  • 7 WNC counties have no practicing ob/gyns

Fewer Resources

  • Geography creates transportation challenges
  • 6 hospital labor and delivery closures in less than 5 years

Ongoing Opioid Epidemic

  • 12 out of 18 counties have higher rates of opioid-related deaths than the state average
  • In WNC, a person is more likely to die from an opioid overdose than from a car accident

Challenging Social Determinants of Health

  • 1 in 4 WNC children live in poverty
  • 1 in 5 WNC residents are over 65
  • 1 in 6 WNC adults 18-65 are uninsured
  • Median WNC household income is $9,160 less than the state average

Above-Average Rates of Disease

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Behavioral health disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Smoking
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