rural healthcare

Photo by: Bram Sable-Smith

There is just one hospital in western Indiana’s Vermillion County. The slender, 37-mile long county is dotted with corn and soybean fields, and driving from one end to the other would take nearly an hour. 

Union Hospital Clinton is small, only 25 beds, but it also serves parts of two neighboring counties. The area suffers from some of Indiana’s highest rates of heart attack and stroke. 

PRESTON KERES / U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Outbreaks at meat processing facilities have sickened workers and stalled production throughout the Midwest. Side Effects reporters Natalie Krebs (Iowa Public Radio) and Sebastián Martínez Valdivia (KBIA, Missouri), and Ohio Valley ReSource reporter Liam Niemeyer (WKMS, Kentucky) joined engagement specialist Brittani Howell on Facebook Live to talk about how the story has unfolded in their states. 

Michael Leland / Side Effects Public Media

Many of America’s rural counties have just a handful of COVID-19 cases. And health experts say that may be giving residents a false sense of security. Now, outbreaks at food processing plants could shake that complacency.

Natalie Krebs / Side Effects Public Media

In many states, emergency medical services are not considered essential, like fire or police. That means when you call 911, there’s no guarantee an ambulance will respond. And this is a big problem in rural areas, where volunteers are scarce.


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We asked you, our listeners and readers, to share  your concerns with healthcare costs. And the results are in. 

Carter Barrett/Side Effects Public Media

On this sweltering summer day, only a few people walk by Mousie’s restaurant. The building’s blue facade stands out next to its neutral surroundings. In one of its circular windows, there’s a neon ‘open’ sign that’s turned off. 

It's just one example of the economic decline in Connersville, Ind., once known as "Little Detroit."


Natalie Krebs/Side Effects Public Media.

Rural areas in America have high death rates from car crashes, hunting accidents and other trauma. But many rural hospitals are only equipped to handle basic emergencies. In one Iowa town trauma experts are helping a small ER prepare for big emergencies.

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More nurse practitioners are stepping up to meet the needs of Hoosier patients as Indiana grapples with a shortage of primary care doctors.

Screenshot/Department of Health and Human Services

  Darvin Bentlage says his health insurance plan used to be the same as all the other cattle farmers in Barton County, Mo.: Stay healthy until he turned 65, then get on Medicare. But when he turned 50, things did not go according to plan.

Jessica Stefonik is grinning. She's got a bounce in her step. Her cheeks are a little puffy and her speech is a bit thick.

"It feels weird right now, but I'll get used to it," she says.

What she's trying to get used to is the feeling of having teeth.

On the day we met, Stefonik, a mom of three from Mosinee, Wis., got a set of dentures to replace all of her upper teeth, which she lost over many years to disease and decay.

Stefonik is just 31 years old.

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