The U.S. health care system is currently under pressure from the increasing prevalence of chronic conditions, unsustainable costs, and uneven quality of care. Challenges are even greater in the fragile systems of care in rural communities. Rural residents, providers, and leaders face exacerbated challenges at many different levels when seeking to impact population health. Rural residents are older, more likely to be impoverished and uninsured, and less healthy than their urban counterparts. In addition, access to care is limited due to a persistently insufficient supply of rural health care workers, gaps in services, and an escalating number of health care organizations that are financially unstable.
The needs are great, the resources are limited, and solutions are complex and dependent upon collaboration of multi-sector stakeholders. But despite the challenges, it is also a time of opportunity for rural communities with transformation efforts underway throughout the United States aiming to improve population health and innovate new mechanisms for financing health and health care.
The Community Health Systems Development (CHSD) team at the Georgia Health Policy Center (GHPC) has expertise in assisting rural communities to improve health and health care delivery in an effective and sustainable manner. Through tailored technical assistance designed to build local capacity by using technical and adaptive approaches and with a focus on long-term sustainability, communities working with GHPC have been able to implement strategies and achieve impact through:
- Expanding direct services
- Improving appropriate use of services, including screenings
- Tailoring evidence-based disease management and education practices to local culture and community context
- Changing awareness, knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors through outreach and education
- Building community and health system capacity through workforce and partnership development
- Initiating policy, systems, and environmental change with an emphasis toward improving population health measures
To date the CHSD team has partnered with more than 900 grantees of the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Office of Rural Health Policy’s programs, including Rural Health Care Services Outreach, Rural Health Network Development, Rural Health Network Planning, Delta States Rural Development Network, Rural Health Information Technology Workforce (HIT), Rural Health Workforce Development, Small Healthcare Provider Quality Improvement, Rural Outreach Benefits Counseling, and Rural Health Care Coordination Network Partnership.
Through regular, meaningful contact with communities, GHPC has built trusted relationships that have deepened appreciation and understanding of the work rural health organizations do to develop sustainable community-based services and coalitions to address rural health needs. Some key areas of technical assistance include rural health network development; data sharing and integration; community resources and financial infrastructure; coalition and partnership building; health care quality improvement; leadership and workforce development; improving evaluation capacity; strategic planning; and planning for sustainability.