The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Rural Health is proud to recognize the selfless, community-minded spirit of health professionals and volunteers in North Carolina communities during National Rural Health Day 2021. National Rural Health Day falls on the third Thursday in November each year and recognizes the efforts of those serving the health needs of an estimated 57 million people across the nation.
Based on the inaugural 2021 North Carolina Rural Health Snapshot, an assessment of more than 30 health indicators, finds there are often two North Carolinas when it comes to health care, with sharp disparities between urban and rural areas of the state. Wide differences in health care for rural populations are particularly pronounced regarding affordable access to care, preventive care, dental disease, maternal health, food security and premature death.
"It is of vital importance that we ensure all North Carolinians have the opportunity to be healthy and have access to affordable, quality health care regardless of where they call home," said Patrick Woodie, President of the NC Rural Center, and co-chair of the NC Rural Health Leadership Alliance.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found rural communities had a higher rate of unhealthy behaviors, less access to health care and less access to healthy foods compared with urban areas. In North Carolina, where 41%of the state’s population (4.6 million people) live in rural areas, the study has larger implications.
"Our rural health providers have faced unique challenges in the past year in providing critical access to care and finding resources to keep their community healthy, made harder because the state has not yet expanded Medicaid," said ORH Director Maggie Sauer. "Those champions have been tireless and courageous. The real asset rural communities have is partnership, collaboration and a cultural philosophy about helping your neighbor. That is the power of rural."
Beginning in 2015, the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) additionally made a nationwide call for Community Star nominations, seeking individuals, organizations and coalitions making a positive impact in rural communities to highlight during National Rural Health Day. Dr. Gayle Thomas, Medical Director of the NC Farmworker Health Program, has been named North Carolina’s 2021 Community Star, NOSORH recently announced.
"Gayle Thomas has been a Community Star Her whole career, dedicated to serving underserved populations," said Elizabeth Freeman Lambar, ORH Farmworker Health Program Manager. "However, during the pandemic, Dr. Thomas has gone above and beyond every day since March 2020, and she has been a champion of the Farmworker Vaccination Plan that vaccinated more than 27,000 farmworkers with an acceptance rate over 90%."
Freeman Lambar describes Dr. Thomas as passionate for farmworker’s equal access to health care, data-driven, innovative and committed to educating and training professionals. ORH is pleased to recognize and congratulate Dr. Thomas for her dedication and enthusiasm to rural communities.
North Carolinians and stakeholders are invited to participate in the following planned National Rural Health Day activities to celebrate the "Power of Rural."
The Power of Rural NC
Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2020, 9–10:30 a.m.
As part of National Rural Health Day, this virtual event is an opportunity to “Celebrate the Power of Rural” by honoring the selfless, community-minded spirit that prevails in rural America. NRHD showcases the efforts of rural healthcare providers, State Offices of Rural Health and other rural stakeholders to address the unique health care challenges rural citizens face today and in the future.
A special presentation of the National Rural Health Day Gubernatorial Proclamation will be made, recognition of North Carolina’s Community Star and a celebration of hometown heroes. The event is sponsored by the NC Rural Health Leadership Alliance, NC Office of Rural Health, NC Rural Center and Hometown Strong.
Rural Health Conference: Rural Resilience & the Road to Recovery
Thursday, Nov. 18, 9 a.m.–3 p.m.
This conference is intended for certified CMS Rural Health Clinics (RHC) and State Designated Rural Health Centers, though all are welcome to attend. Topics will include provider burnout and retention, RHC best practices and benchmarks, integrated care and COVID-19 initiatives.
Rural health stakeholders can explore a partnership pledge, showcase individuals and organizations selected as 2021 Community Stars and provide visitors with a variety of tools, including social media posts to help #PowerofRural trend on social media to bring greater awareness. see how rural communities across the country will be celebrating National Rural Health Day and for more information, visit www.PowerofRural.org.