Rural Health Care
Dr. Morrison in the Mobile Health Clinic
Introduction
Country Doctors
Country Patients
Oregon's Health Care System
Who are Country Patients?
The practice of medicine tends to be done a little differently rural Oregon, due in large part to the type of people that live there. Most live and work independently, as farmers, ranchers and loggers, and spend a lot of time taking care of themselves. As a result, rural doctors notice in their communities a tendency for their patients to be stoic and self-reliant, inclined to downplay symptoms and otherwise avoid preventive care.
The best way to treat these kinds of patients, rural doctors say, is to take time and build relationships with patients. "I get to know people better if I'm slower around them and I give them a chance to tell me what's really on their mind," says Dr. Robert Morrison of Burns. "They're rural people and they know how much time it takes to do things."
People who live in rural environs also have different hazards to negotiate than people who live in a city. They are more likely to sustain injuries from farm equipment or livestock. They do more driving at high speeds in isolated areas full of mobile wildlife. Some studies indicate higher instances of alcoholism, smoking and obesity. Heart disease was the number-one cause of death in Halfway from 1999 to 2001, almost twice as high as cancer-related deaths in the same area and more than twice as high as the deaths by heart disease for the entire state of Oregon.
Rural Oregon is poorer than urban Oregon and is also aging faster, as young people graduate from high school and move away. Halfway saw a 44-percent increase in its 45 to 64-year-old demographic from 1990 to 2002. Many rural adults, some estimate 50 percent, have one or more chronic illness. These older patients need more heath care than ever and rely heavily on Medicare and other government programs to pay for it.
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