Transforming Health Care Through Evidence and Collaboration
Transforming Health Care Through Evidence and Collaboration

Developmental Disabilities More Common in Rural Areas

March 2020, Population Health Spotlight

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Developmental Disabilities More Common in Rural Areas

Developmental disabilities are a collection of conditions resulting from physical, learning, language, or behavioral impairments. Typically, these disabilities persist throughout a person's lifetime. New 2015-to-2018 data from the National Health Statistics Report indicate that 17.8% of all children between the ages of 3 and 17 have been diagnosed with a developmental disability, and shine a light on differences for children living in urban versus rural areas. At 19.8%, diagnosis prevalence is significantly higher among rural children, but they are less likely to see medical professionals or receive special education support services. Early intervention and connection to services is key to helping vulnerable children and families get the support they need. 

Rural communities face complex challenges when it comes to accessing health care. To improve the delivery of health care in rural areas, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) recently announced its intent to support a new cooperative agreement to provide technical assistance to help small rural hospitals and rural health clinics strengthen their ability to deliver value-based care.

Private sector organizations are also addressing the health needs in their own rural communities. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is investing $8 million in programs that are working to improve health in rural areas across the state. Additionally, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield awarded $817,000 to the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership to help South Arkansas hospitals and clinics participate in the State Health Alliance for Records Exchange (SHARE) to improve how they exchange patient information.


youth mental health trends and outlook 1Tackling Rising Rates of Mental Illness and Suicide

The past decade has seen a rise in death by suicide as well as a growing mental health crisis. To tackle rising suicide rates, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released a call for applications for a 2020 Suicide Prevention Resources Center grant to serve as a national center of excellence to address suicide across the country.

While mental illness and death by suicide is increasing for all age groups, recent data have highlighted a worrisome increase among youth and young adults. To address these trends, organizations are partnering to find and implement solutions. The American School Health Association, Anthem and Jet Blue are supporting a new initative called Shine Light on Depression that provides middle and high schools with depression awareness and suicide prevention programs and resources.

At the state-level, public health leaders are supporting healthy teen mental health through the Title V MCH Services Block Grant. To support this work, the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, with support from the Adolescent and Young Adult Health National Resource Center, has released the #ScreenToInterveneForAYAs Adolescent and Young Adult Behavioral Health Blog. The blog creates a space for state Title V maternal and child health professionals and their partners to learn about efforts to support optimal emotional wellness among adolescents and young adults.


How Innovative, Public-Private Partnerships are Addressing the Social Determinants of Health

Where we live, work and play are the biggest drivers of our health. In recognition of the importance of social determinants to overall health, stakeholders are collaborating to address the health of their communities:

Are you a community-based organization or a health system partner working to address the social determinants of health? To find out how you are doing in this space, use The Commonwealth Fund’s Return on Investment (ROI) Calculator for Partnerships to Address the Social Determinants of Health to help you plan sustainable financial arrangements to fund the delivery of social services to high-need, high-cost patients.


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Developmental disabilities are more common among rural youth.