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Virginia Department of Health Recognizes National Rural Health Day Nov. 15
(Richmond, Va.) In recognition of the important role of Virginia’s rural communities in the state’s past, present and future, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) celebrates November 15, 2012, as National Rural Health Day. The annual event was created to showcase the vitality of rural communities, raise awareness of the unique health care challenges they face and promote rural health equity.
“The health of rural Virginians encompasses much more than the absence of illness or the prevention of disease progression. It means a true sense of well-being, optimal functioning and quality of life at home, school, on the job and in every locality,” said Acting State Health Commissioner Maureen E. Dempsey, MD, FAAP. “Promoting rural health equity creates collaboration among partners from the arenas of public health, health care, education, economic development, transportation, community residents and organizations. The quality of health in rural areas is a sensitive barometer of the overall health of the Commonwealth.”
Rural areas are often tight-knit communities full of mutual respect, hard work, and determination. These communities also face unique challenges such as a lack of health care providers, access to health care and affordability issues related to larger numbers of uninsured citizens and greater out-of-pocket health costs.
According to the 2012 Virginia Health Equity Report, living in a rural area compared to an urban area of the Commonwealth results in higher total costs of $692M annually related to health disparities associated with lack of access to care or insurance. These disparities can have a ripple effect across communities and the Commonwealth. The VDH Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, which serves as Virginia’s State Office of Rural Health, is engaging partners which include local health districts, the Virginia Rural Health Association, and other community organizations to address challenges.
“Working together, we can make sure all rural residents have the opportunity to make choices that allow them to live long, healthy lives regardless of their income, education, or ethnic background,” said Michael Royster, MD, MPH, director of the VDH Office of Minority Health and Health Equity.
Information detailing strategies and recommendations for addressing these challenges can be found in the 2012 Health Equity Report and Virginia’s State Rural Health Plan, which was developed in part by the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, the Virginia Rural Health Association, and many other partners across rural Virginia. The plan is currently being revised through a collaborative effort with numerous statewide partners focusing on emerging rural health needs. Virginia communities can support the National Rural Health Week effort by submitting rural success stories to the National Rural Health Day webpage, http://www.celebratepowerofrural.org.