Fall is on its way and kids are returning to school. Over the past few years I have been working with my daughter to transition her to managing her own healthcare and now realize just how important it is to engage kids in the conversation of health.
We know that in order to meet the continuing healthcare needs in rural communities we need to build upon the rich rural culture of community and build a culture of health. Nearly 14 percent of Coloradoans live in rural – that’s 1 out of 10 people – and rural communities have an average age segment between 45 and 65. In fact, by 2018 the only growing population is expected to be the 65 and older age demographic in most of our rural communities. Rural challenges are real; 9.7 percent of families live in poverty, 13.7 percent face a lack of transportation, and 21 percent were uninsured in 2013. This is why it is imperative that we as rural communities foster relationships and create awareness of resources that exist in the community.
Through excellent customer service and asking the important questions rural communities continue to build a culture of health. Twenty rural communities have completed a community health needs assessment with the Colorado Rural Health Center as a key way of building the culture of health. A community health needs assessment is a process that incorporates a comprehensive review of the county data, facilitating and compiling results of community group meetings and surveys, and taking action to improve community health. Through engaging community members in the conversation of health, healthcare providers have the opportunity to understand the importance of healthcare from the perspective of those that utilize services. Upon understanding areas of importance and with the goals of fostering collaboration around community health, healthcare, and healthy living, an action plan can be developed. The implementation of these action plans and the commitment of all community members help create the culture of health in rural communities. From the communities that have completed a community health needs assessment with us, we know that the following areas of opportunity exist across rural Colorado: oral health access, behavioral health services and scope, workforce shortages or misdistribution, balancing reimbursement rates with operational efficiencies, pharmacy services, transportation, and helping residents age in place.
While we know that this was the start of the conversation, it will not be the end. Ongoing educational opportunities, making connections, and creating careful, thoughtful language are not only important -they are imperative to building the culture of health. Our rural communities have a strong history and culture of providing quality care and access and will continue to build the culture of health.
This week we are celebrating the fifth year of Safety Net Clinic Week and I’d like to thank all 51 of the Federally Certified Rural Health Clinics for everything they do for their communities to build the culture of health. Rural Health Clinic staff work tirelessly day in and day out in service to their communities. Thank you for all you do!