November 17 has been designated National Rural Health Day. Why do we need a day? As outlined by the State Offices of Rural Health,
Today more than ever, rural communities must address accessibility issues, a lack of healthcare providers, the needs of an aging population suffering from a greater number of chronic conditions, and larger percentages of un- and underinsured citizens. And rural hospitals – which are often the economic foundation of their communities in addition to being the primary providers of care – struggle daily as declining reimbursement rates and disproportionate funding levels make it challenging to serve their residents.
Why should you care? Rural health care is not just for rural residents. Anyone from any area can suddenly find themselves or someone very important to them in need of health care service in a rural area. Illnesses have a way of happening when visiting relatives. Automobile accidents happen in rural areas. 30 rural counties have motor vehicle accident death rates that are more than double the national rate with eight having rates that are more than triple the national rate. While there are a number of reasons for this disparity, the great variation in emergency medical service among the counties must be recognized as a contributing factor.
Here is Alabama, Governor Bentley will use the Day to draw attention to these problems but also highlight the successes:
- The Alabama Rural Development Office is focused on expanding the use of telehealth in rural hospitals, community health centers, nursing homes, and schools to bring specialty medical care to rural areas.
- The Rural Medical Scholars program at the University of Alabama and the Rural Medicine Program at Auburn University encourage rural students to practice primary care in rural and underserved communities throughout Alabama.
- The Alabama Office of Primary Care and Rural Health offers scholarship and loan repayment programs to primary care providers who choose to practice in health professional shortage areas.
- Safety net providers such as rural hospitals, federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics, county health departments, and volunteer free clinics provide primary care services to vulnerable populations who would otherwise not have their health care needs met.
Click here to learn about successes from around the country as well as what you can do to help Celebrate the Power of Rural.