A defining feature of reporter David Wahlberg’s ongoing look at rural health care for the Wisconsin State Journal has been his willingness to look beyond the state’s borders, as with his recent piece on health care navigators in Kentucky.
In his latest installment, he looks to Montana, not just for a model, but for perspective. In Montana, he finds that all rural health challenges are created equally, and that the rural areas of the Mountain West and western Great Plains are so remote that the term “rural health” just doesn’t do their situation justice. Instead, they deal with “frontier health,” where the only hospital in driving distance can’t afford to deliver babies, and hospitals have to fly patients hundreds of miles just so they can have access to adequate blood supplies.
Only 4 percent of Wisconsin residents live in frontier counties. In Montana, that number is 54 percent. Wyoming is even higher. “Frontier” counties are generally considered to be those with a population density of fewer than seven people per square mile. For those interested, the State Journal included a map of such counties alongside the story.