National Rural Health Day

The South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health celebrates the work of our partners at the South Carolina Office of Rural Health on this National Rural Health Day, Thursday November 21st 2013.  Three years ago, the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health named the third Thursday of November as National Rural Health Day.  To “Celebrate the Power of Rural,” a proclamation was signed by Governor Haley and showcased at a celebration event held at CareSouth Carolina in Hartsville, South Carolina.  The following Op-Ed is the opinion of the South Carolina Office of Rural Health’s CEO, Graham Adams.

Rural South Carolina: Celebrating Healthcare Excellence

By Graham L. Adams, PhD

Some people may not think about excellent healthcare when they think about rural communities… but they should! Many of our rural healthcare providers achieve quality standards that are as good as or better than their urban peers.  On November 21st, 2013, National Rural Health Day, we have an opportunity to honor those that provide exceptional care every day in rural South Carolina.

The third Thursday of November each year is set aside as National Rural Health Day to give us the opportunity to ‘Celebrate the Power of Rural’ and commend the good works of healthcare providers who serve South Carolina’s rural citizens. The National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) created National Rural Health Day in 2011 as a way to showcase rural America and to increase awareness of rural health-related issues.

South Carolina’s rural communities are wonderful places to live, work, and visit.  Our communities are also places where healthcare providers have the opportunity to provide innovative, affordable, and holistic primary care – a model for the rest of the country to follow as America transitions to a population and wellness-based system of health care.

Health care providers are collaborating more than they ever have before with the goal of enhancing the quality of care they provide.  As a result, South Carolina is a national leader in several healthcare quality initiatives.  Outcomes associated with improving timely heart attack care and decreasing healthcare acquired infections have demonstrated success during the past few years.  Further, South Carolina’s infant mortality rates are declining and chronic disease rates are stabilizing and starting to decrease as well.  Quality healthcare is paramount for a healthy rural community.

Rural healthcare facilities also play a huge role in the financial health of their local community.  According to the National Center for Rural Health Works, healthcare often represents up to 20% of a rural community’s employment and income.  One rural physician can add more than 20 jobs to the local rural economy and in most of our rural communities, hospitals are the first or second largest employer. The significant economic impact of rural healthcare to the livelihood of our state’s small communities cannot be overlooked.

In celebrating, we recognize that our rural communities often have unique healthcare needs as well: a lack of healthcare providers, an aging population suffering from a greater number of chronic conditions, and larger percentages of un- and underinsured citizens.  Accessibility also continues to be a challenge – a lack of public transportation, fragile infrastructures, and geographic barriers must be overcome in order to ensure that our rural safety net providers can adequately meet their community’s basic healthcare needs.  We must strive to do all that we can to support our rural healthcare delivery system to continue to provide excellent healthcare for South Carolina’s rural citizens.

The South Carolina Office of Rural Health (SCORH) is privileged to work with and for rural providers and communities every day and we are so proud of all that they do to provide excellent care to their friends and neighbors.  We urge all South Carolinians to take time today to Celebrate the Power of Rural!

Graham L. Adams, PhD is CEO of the South Carolina Office of Rural Health, a 501(c)3 not for profit organization that is dedicated to improving access to quality health care in South Carolina’s rural communities.

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