Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

March 17, 2017

Special Announcement – March 17, 2017

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the fourth in their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Rural Health Series. In the report, Differences in Health Care, Family, and Community Factors Associated with Mental, Behavioral, and Developmental Disorders Among Children in Rural and Urban Areas, CDC researchers looked at available data reported by parents of children aged 2-8 across the U.S. and report that, in rural areas, one in six children was diagnosed with mental, behavioral and developmental disorder (MBDD).  At 18.6%, the prevalence of MBDD in rural children was higher than urban at 15.2%.

The report finds a numbers of factors correlating with high prevalence of MBDD in children and, for both rural and urban children, a higher number experienced health care, community and home challenges than children without an MBDD.  Factors that were common for families in rural communities include experiencing financial difficulties (e.g. hard to cover basics like food or housing), living in neighborhoods with limited amenities (limited or no availability of sidewalks or walking paths, community and/or recreation centers, or libraries), and lacking a medical home (i.e., a family doctor or nurse and regular office visits).

Beginning on page 8, the report discusses suggestions to address the disparities found between children who experience MBDD and those who do not, and many of these strategies are noted to be appropriate in both rural and urban settings:

–   Primary-behavioral health care integration. Collaborations among health care providers, school-based services and community and state agencies can improve access to behavioral health while lowering cost and improving quality.

–   School-based services and telemedicine options.  Both have been shown to increase access to behavioral health while reducing stigma and transportation barriers.

–   Support for parents.  Early and continuous community-level support for parents can promote healthy environments and learning experiences within the home.

CDC will be releasing a special MMWR series of focused on rural health this year.  The Federal Office of Rural Health Policy is collaborating by disseminating the findings and recommendations to rural community stakeholders.

For further reading:

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Rural Health Series

NEMJ: Out of Sight, Out of Mind – Behavioral and Developmental Care for Rural Children

Milbank Fund: Behavioral Health Integration in Pediatric Primary Care

Resources for child behavioral health:

Rural Behavioral Health Website

SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions

RHIHub Rural Mental Health Toolkit

Rural Project Examples: Mental Health