Rural communities are considered by many to be wonderful places to live and work, which is why nearly 59.5 million people - nearly one in five Americans - call them home. Rural communities also have unique healthcare needs. Today more than ever, rural communities must address accessibility issues, 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 face declining reimbursement rates and disproportionate funding levels.
National Rural Health Day was created in 2011 to draw attention to the challenges of rural health care and will be celebrated this year on Thursday.
"National Rural Health Day is an opportunity to honor the selfless, community-minded, 'can do' spirit that prevails in rural America. And, it also gives us a chance to bring to light the unique healthcare challenges that rural citizens face - and showcase the efforts of rural healthcare providers and other rural stakeholders to address those challenges," Carolyn Sheridan, director for AgriSafe Services of Spencer Hospital, said.
Spencer Hospital's AgriSafe program was created more than 20 years ago to address the specific health needs of farm families and agribusiness employees.
"We provide a variety of services through AgriSafe focused primarily on education and tools to aid in prevention of potential health concerns," Sheridan said. "Areas of focus include hearing conservation, respiratory safety and skin safety. While treating health concerns is always a mission of Spencer Hospital, we truly want to prevent people from having farm-related accidents or developing chronic health conditions."
The National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) created National Rural Health Day as a way to showcase rural America and increase awareness of rural health-related issues.
"National Rural Health Day gives NOSORH and its partners the opportunity to 'Celebrate the Power of Rural' and showcase the good works of America's 59.5 million rural citizens," NOSORH Director Teryl Eisinger noted. "It also allows us to highlight the unique healthcare issues being faced by rural citizens and promote the efforts of NOSORH, State Offices of Rural Health (SORHs) and their partners in addressing those issues."
SORHs in particular play a key role in addressing those needs, Eisinger explained. All 50 states maintain a SORH, each of which shares a similar mission; to foster relationships, disseminate information and provide technical assistance that improves access to quality health care for rural citizens.
"Together, these State Offices provide technical assistance to more than 28,000 rural communities each year," Eisinger said.