Providing quality health care in rural communities

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

 In an effort to increase awareness of rural health-related issues, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), along with the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health, is celebrating the first ever National Rural Health Day.  Governor Pat Quinn proclaimed Nov. 17, 2011, National Rural Health Day in Illinois to encourage residents to recognize the unique health care needs and opportunities in Illinois’ rural communities.

Approximately 62 million people, or almost one in five Americans, live in rural areas of the United States.  That includes more than two million Illinois residents.  

“Many rural communities face challenges when providing quality health care, including accessibility – such as traveling long distances to a health care provider, a lack of health care providers in the area, the needs of an aging population suffering from a greater number of chronic conditions, and larger percentages of un- and underinsured citizens,” said Dr. Craig Conover, state health department acting director.  “But not only do rural hospitals work to address the health care disparities, they are also resourceful innovators that reach beyond geographical boundaries to deliver quality care.”

Hospitals and health care providers serving rural communities not only provide quality patient care, but they also help keep good jobs in rural Illinois.  Hospitals are economic engines in their communities with every dollar spent generating approximately $2.20 for the local economy.

The IDPH Center for Rural Health was formed in 1989 with the goal of improving access to primary health care in rural and underserved areas of Illinois, and to encourage community involvement in health issues.  Center for Rural Health staff offer consultation and technical assistance to health care consumers and providers to help them to identify health care issues, to discuss potential solutions, and to develop and implement plans of action.  The center is a vocal advocate, both in Illinois and nationally, that works to educate policy makers and the public about the problems rural communities experience in their efforts to maintain and enhance health care access.

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