Why Rural Health Matters
The question may be asked:
Why is it so crucial for the state to be concerned with the health care across this rural and remote half of the state ?
The answer lies within the vast resources that West Texas contributes and the people who make it all possible.
West Texas plays a significant role in the daily lives of most Americans as a primary source of food, fuel, and fiber. West Texas is home to major beef and pork production, including some of the largest cattle feedlots and to the top producing oil and gas fields in the country; and the region serves as a prominent source for agriculture. The State of Texas provides to the country 30% of the beef, 20% of the oil, 20% of the peanuts and 35% of the cotton, with a majority of the production coming from West Texas.
131,323 square miles across 108 counties
2.8 million people
98 counties are rural, and half of those are frontier with fewer than 20 people per square mile
12 counties do not have a physician, nurse practitioner or Physician Assistant
32 counties do not have a hospital
However, the fact remains that with a declining and aging workforce, a strained rural health care system, and far reaching health disparities in West Texas, the predominant economies of oil, agriculture and ranching will be affected. Without an adequate and healthy workforce for these industries, the entire nation can be affected particularly in light of concerns about the nation's food supply, as well as the production and availability of foreign oil and the status of various international trade agreements.
Another significant element of West Texas is the fact that the changing demography is actually a precursor of what is to come in many other rural regions of the country. The growing trends of a more elderly and minority population have already been predominant in West Texas for several years. The same trends noted here 10 to 15 years ago are beginning to emerge in much of rural America where the population is becoming more diverse.
As major cities in Texas continue to face issues of urban density, traffic congestion, crime, school challenges, rising taxes and other such issues, rural West Texas will have a growing attraction for residents and businesses seeking elbow room. Economic development professionals are quick to point out that rural West Texas generally affords a lower cost of living, lower taxes and a more cost effective workforce. And with the reality of modern communications technology, many businesses can function from anywhere. The availability of health services in rural areas will be a primary determinant of whether or not this potential growth takes place.