Thursday, September 17, 2020

Rural Health Associations

Rural health associations are a key voice in the efforts to improve rural healthcare in America. Serving the healthcare needs of rural Americans, which comprise about 15% of the U.S. population, or close to 46 million people, has long been a challenge. Despite the wealth and resources of America's healthcare system, the reality is that rural Americans, in general, have more health issues and poorer health outcomes than their urban counterparts. For example, rural residents are more likely than urban residents to die prematurely from all five of the leading causes of death in the United States: cancer, stroke, heart disease, unintentional injury, and chronic lower respiratory disease. These health disparities stem from many causes. More limited access to healthy foods, higher rates of smoking, lower income and education levels, a higher likelihood of poor or no health insurance, and poor access to healthcare services are just some of the factors that contribute to the health disparities found in rural America.

Rural health disparities have long been prevalent in the U.S. The earliest initiatives to address poor rural health care actually date back more than 100 years. And since the middle of the 20th century, various state and federal programs have had mixed success at advancing the state of healthcare for rural Americans. While improvements have been achieved through these various efforts, many challenges remain to reducing rural health disparities. Rural health associations play an important role in these ongoing efforts to improve the rural health disparity gap.

Rural health associations, which typically operate in a particular state or region, are membership based organizations that provide leadership and advocacy on rural health matters at the state and national level. These organizations are usually comprised of rural health care institutions and practitioners, educational institutions, industry partners and others with a vested interest in the delivery of healthcare products and services to rural populations. The operating objective of a typical rural health association is to:

  • Identify rural health issues and needs in their service regions

  • Serve as a single voice in the promotion of rural health initiatives and issues in their region

  • Disseminate timely information about key federal and state health programs and policies

  • Educate and advocate about rural health issues and policies

  • Encourage networking and collaboration among parties who support rural health causes

  • To find the rural health association serving your area, and to learn more about the important work that they do, visit our Rural Health Associations resource page.