The Future Of Rural Health

Rural communities face unique challenges, particularly when it comes to health and health care. Finding innovative solutions to those challenges is at the forefront of this year’s Rural Health Care Leadership Conference being held this week in Phoenix.

Interesting video from the first day of the conference, courtesy of the Hospital and Health Networks, that compares the difficulties facing rural health with rocket science. Click here or on the video below to watch.

rural

A lot of attention on rural health in Arizona last year focused on the closure of Cochise Regional Hospital, which left the people of Douglas without a nearby source for emergency health care. The sustainability of rural hospitals and clinics remains an important issue, but there are many other health-related challenges that face small communities throughout our state including:

  • Higher rates of uninsured residents;
  • Lower prevalence of high school graduates;
  • Higher prevalence of individuals living below the federal poverty level;
  • Lower utilization of prenatal care services;
  • Higher rates of teen births; 
  • Higher rates of uncontrolled diabetes;
  • Fewer mental health providers per capita; and 
  • Higher prevalence of obesity. 

Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association (AzHHA) President & CEO Greg Vigdor wrote a guest column that was published in today’s Daily Miner in Kingman on the unique challenges facing rural communities. Part of the column read:

Being the “small guy” or the “rural guy” when it comes to health care often makes you the “vulnerable guy.” For example: rural hospitals are forced to collaborate in order to get data analytics. Rural hospitals don’t have the leverage to negotiate with insurance companies or other contracts, either. Policy changes could assist with easing those vulnerabilities.

We’re hopeful this week’s discussions result in real change that creates better access to quality care and a stronger health care network across Arizona, including rural communities.

Those are some of our thoughts – now we’d like to hear from you. What do you think we can do to help rural communities improve health and health care in Arizona? Finding new ways to address old problems will be key to our goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

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