I do believe summer has arrived, and with that, many will head off on adventures to celebrate. I just arrived back from my summer vacation where I had the opportunity to witness some of the most amazing wildlife I’ve ever seen. As I reflect upon the beauty that exists in the rural Colorado, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share some community work that CRHC is engaged in to bring the voice of rural.
Last year the Southeastern Colorado Area Health Education Center, Action 22 and CRHC convened a regional healthcare collaborative called Peaks to Plains Partners for Improved Health that included nearly 50 thought leaders. With funding from The Colorado Trust through a convening grant, our initial efforts brought together individuals from ten southeastern Colorado counties: Baca, Bent, Crowley, Fremont, Huerfano, Kiowa, Las Animas, Otero, Prowers, and Pueblo. Participants included public health, hospital administration, economic development, rural health clinics, federally qualified health centers, and others interested in the health of their community.
Southeastern Colorado is faced with multiple complex healthcare issues including a declining population of 45 – 64 year olds and a growing population of those aged 65 and older. Nearly 45 percent of families are living below poverty level, 43 percent of adults do not have a high school diploma, and transportation is an issue as in most rural counties. In Southeast Colorado, hypertension is 28 percent above the state rural average of 20 percent, colonoscopy examinations are 13 percent below the state rural average of 46.2 percent, and pap smear examinations are 7 percent below the state rural average of 79 percent. While 16 percent of the population is above the state’s rural average of 6.1 percent in cases of adults with diabetes, influenza vaccination in the region is 16 percent above the state rural average, and whooping cough cases are 22 percent below the state rural average.
Based on some of these challenges the Peaks to Plains Partners for Improved Health agreed to target the areas of health literacy, wellness and prevention, and management of complex health issues. The mission is to improve the health of the region’s poor health outcomes through coordinating and sharing information. Partners agree that achieving health equity will require inclusive, long-term proactive planning.
Healthcare is going through a major transformation as we are moving towards health and wellness, primary care, patient centered medical home, integrated behavioral and physical health and addressing the social determinants of health through community interaction. Community is the future of rural health.