NEBRASKA CITY – An assistant biology professor at Peru State College told Rotarians Wednesday that seeking health care improvements in underdeveloped countries can springboard better health outcomes for Nebraskans.
Kate Trout, a Tecumseh High School and Peru State College graduate who studied epidemiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, has conducted global health research including water sanitation in rural India, pediatric infections in Nigeria and health care systems in Central America.
Trout: “We face similar challenges in rural health here in Nebraska, as well. People in western Nebraska don’t readily have access to specialty care because most of the state is covered in shortage areas, provider shortage areas.”
Challenges for rural health care include a high cost of transportation, lower incomes, lower rates of insurance coverage, higher rates of chronic diseases and higher morbidity linked to stroke and heart attack.
Trout said these challenges attribute to hospital closures in rural areas.
She said health care is not affordable enough.
Trout: “Currently, in our health care system, it’s really expensive, but we get little for it. Among the developing nations, we get the least but pay the most.”
She recently led a research project in rural Costa Rica with students Nicole McMann, Destiny Soto and Jessenia Hincapie. The team went forward with the idea that Americans need to spend less and get more in the areas of health care access and equity.
She said smart phones may be part of the answer because they can reach vulnerable populations and offer real time, personalized solutions. They are also able to transmit and record data.
Trout: “So, if we can find solutions in these really low resource settings that will help us figure out sustainable solutions here in Nebraska as well.”
Trout said the United States is a world leader in health care research, but has done so for years and has not been able to close the gap with other developed countries in terms of quality and accessibility of health care.