Rural America has its strengths and weaknesses. Both will be showcased during National Rural Health Day on Nov. 16. The nationwide campaign, “Celebrate the Power of Rural,” will highlight unique healthcare needs that rural citizens face and showcase the efforts of rural healthcare providers, state offices of rural health, 4-H and other rural stakeholders.
Leading up to the event, the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health will be releasing a list of local “stars” — selfless, community-minded adults and youths with the “can do” spirit that prevails in rural America, says spokesperson Michelle Rathman. Co-hosts for the event include the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), a health philanthropy group focusing on rural health initiatives, and the National 4-H Council. “We’ll be focusing on what people can do about domestic abuse and opioid issues, not just about the issues themselves,” Rathman says.
Rural hospitals and health clinics across the country also will be hosting “Walk with a doc” events Nov. 16. For the latest news and events happening throughout the country, visit PowerofRural.org.
Rural health gaps remain
One of every five Americans still lives and works in rural areas. That’s why “rural” is increasingly diversified ethnically and economically, says Gordon Reese, RWJF’s media director.
The changes can be seen driving into most small towns. Many rural communities are struggling to revitalize downtowns and create economic opportunities. What’s harder to see is the rise in domestic abuse, the continuing decline of primary care physicians and the rural community explosion of opioid and methamphetamine overdoses.
Wendy Wasserman, public affairs officer for the Appalachian Regional Commission, reports that actual numbers of primary-care physicians have declined 13% since 2013 in that 13-state region compared to national average. That region stretches from northern Mississippi to southern New York. Overdose mortality rates for Appalachians ages 25 to 44 are 70% higher than for the rest of the country.
While rural America has its shining success, it also has its health care disparities. That’s what National Rural Health Day aims to keep in the forefront of state and federal policy-making.