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Rural and Appalachian Disparities in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Incidence and Access to Opioid Abuse Treatment

Brown, Joshua D., Goodin, Amie J., Talbert, Jeffery C.
The Journal of rural health 2018 v.34 no.1 pp. 6-13
census data, issues and policy, patients, pregnant women, rural health, Appalachian region, Kentucky
OBJECTIVE: Incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is increasing due to the rise in opioid use. Rural states like Kentucky have been disproportionally impacted by opioid abuse, and this study determines NAS burden nationally and in Kentucky while quantifying differences in access to care between Appalachian and non‐Appalachian counties. METHODS: NAS rates were calculated using National (2013) and Kentucky (2008‐2014) National Inpatient Sample discharge data. Births were identified using International Classification of Diseases v9 code 779.5 and live birth codes V30.x‐V38.x. Counties were classified as rural, micropolitan, or metropolitan using census data. Proximity analysis was conducted via mapping from ZIP code centroid to nearest opioid treatment facility. Distance to treatment facilities was calculated and then compared using nonparametric testing for counties by rural and Appalachian status. RESULTS: NAS cases tripled from 2008 to 2014 in Kentucky counties, with a 2013 NAS rate more than double the national NAS rate. Rural and Appalachian counties experienced an NAS increase per 1,000 births that was 2‐2.5 times higher than urban/non‐Appalachian counties, with a greater number of NAS births overall in Appalachian counties. All opioid treatment facility types were further from rural patients than micropolitan/metropolitan patients (P < .001), as well as further for Appalachians versus non‐Appalachians (P < .001, all facility types). CONCLUSIONS: NAS burden disparately affects rural and Appalachian Kentucky counties, while treatment options are disproportionately further away for these residents. Policy efforts to increase NAS prevention and encourage opioid abuse treatment uptake in pregnant women should address rural and Appalachian disparities.