Rural communities are wonderful places to live and work, which is why over 60 million people – nearly one in five Americans – call them home. These small towns, farming communities and frontier areas are places where neighbors know each other, listen to each other, respect each other and work together to benefit the greater good. They are also some of the best places to start a business and test your “entrepreneurial spirit.” These communities provide the rest of the country with a wealth of services and commodities, and they are the economic engine that has helped the United States become the world economic power it is today.
These rural communities also have unique healthcare needs. Today more than ever, rural communities must address accessibility issues, a lack of healthcare providers, 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 – which are often the economic foundation of their communities in addition to being the primary providers of care – struggle daily as declining reimbursement rates and disproportionate funding levels make it challenging to serve their residents.
That is why the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health sets aside the third Thursday of every November to celebrate National Rural Health Day. First and foremost, National Rural Health Day is an opportunity to “Celebrate the Power of Rural” by honoring the selfless, community-minded, “can do” spirit that prevails in rural America. But 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, State Offices of Rural Health and other rural stakeholders to address those challenges.