Unraveling Health Disparities Across the Mile
By: Eint Myo
Lung Cancer Initiative’s Gas Card Program allows lung cancer patients to receive financial assistance regarding gas usage when going to and from their treatment center(s). Based on data throughout the years 2021, 2022, and so far in 2023 from patient recipients in the Gas Card Program, LCI compiled the percentage breakdown of how many recipients are from suburban, urban, and rural areas in North Carolina. In 2021, 28.7% were from suburban areas, 22.8% from urban areas, and 48.5% from rural areas. In 2022, 26.7% were from suburban areas, 36.6% from urban areas, and 36.6% from rural areas. And so far in 2023, 22.3% were from suburban areas, 35.5% from urban areas, and 42.2% from rural areas.
Based on the data we have compiled, we can conclude that most of our gas card recipients are from rural areas, which led us to further investigate the difference in gas usage between suburban, urban and rural areas. We found that patients living in urban, rural and suburban areas experience different average driving miles to their treatment center, with patients living in rural communities traveling the furthest with an average of 86.4 miles round trip. We found that in 2021, suburban recipients drove an average of 58.75 miles round trip to their treatment center, urban recipients drove an average of 23.33 miles, and rural recipients it was 86.43 miles. In 2022, it was 45.55 miles for suburban recipients, 20.34 miles for urban recipients, and 71.82 miles for rural recipients. In 2023 so far, it is 46.17 miles for suburban recipients, 19.18 miles for urban recipients, and 47.89 miles for rural recipients.
As indicated by this data, rural individuals in North Carolina who are affected by lung cancer are using more gas to get to their treatment centers, which are farther away from home compared to patients living in an urban area. This raises concern in regards to public health matters of rural health disparities and access to care, where preventative healthcare is largely inaccessible and unaffordable to those in rural areas, in addition to having fewer healthcare opportunities and available resources. Knowing how difficult it can be to stay afloat and with some of our own members being directly affected by lung cancer, we are glad to be able to provide our services and we continue to seek partners to support patients in rural communities through our Gas Card program among other patient programs.