“An emphasis on prevention in health care has the potential to create a broader population of healthy Arkansans. It can also serve as the catalyst for the conservation of scarce tax dollars.” (Policy Foundation report, Road Map for Arkansas Prosperity, December 2008)

(June 11, 2009) Dr. Thomas A. Bruce, former dean of the College of Medicine at the Univ. of Arkansas told a Policy Foundation forum today that prevention and “a team approach” are key to improving medical care access in rural Arkansas.

Dr. Bruce cited academic research that shows 50 percent of early deaths are attributable to lifestyle choices including poor diet, lack of exercise and use of tobacco products. Early deaths occur prior to overall U.S. life expectancy, which is 75.65 years for males and 80.69 years for females.1 Overall life expectancy in the U.S. is 77.7 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dr. Bruce also cited environmental (20%), and genetic (20%) factors and lack of access to medical care (10%).

Preventive measures should start early in childhood. Dr. Bruce said educational efforts have the potential to do more good in the Delta than simply sending more doctors to the region.

Dr. Bruce, a Mountain Home native talked at length about the factors that lead physicians to serve rural markets. He supported a medical team concept “larger than four to five doctors.” Dr. Bruce, in response to an audience question said the team could include advanced nurse practitioner specialists (OBGYN, pediatric and geriatric).

Dr. William Rodgers, director, rural health and primary care center for local public health at the state Department of Health reviewed program activities in Arkansas. He said one factor that effects health is education. Only 12.2% of Arkansas’s rural population had completed college, 2000 data show.

1 CIA World Fact Book: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/US.html