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Why National Rural Health Day Is a Boost for Rural Care Needs

by Mitchell Clark

Published on 11/15/2018

More than 60 million (or one in five) Americans call a rural community home. Every year, on the third Thursday of November, National Rural Health Day highlights these vibrant, diverse areas and the unique health care challenges they face.

As a collaboration between the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH), the 50 State Offices of Rural Health and their partners, sponsors and community stakeholders, National Rural Health Day inspires people to “Celebrate the Power of Rural.”


Unique, growing challenges in rural health

Many rural communities have aging populations that face significant obstacles, such as chronic health conditions, economic hardships, lower levels of education, and a lack of adequate and affordable health care. Access to care is another major issue— – since 2005, more than 120 rural hospitals have closed

When rural patients are unable to pay their medical bills, charity care and bad debt can overwhelm the local health care organizations. The decline of reimbursement rates, the unwillingness of many states to expand Medicaid and the difficulty of attracting and retaining clinicians all have a negative impact on rural hospitals.

About 20 percent of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, and the hospital is often one of the largest employers. A research study from the National Center for Rural Health Works shows the average critical critical-access hospital creates 170 jobs and generates $7.1 million in annual salaries, wages and benefits. If a rural provider is forced to close, the community erodes, and the economic blow stretches into the surrounding metropolitan areas.

Rural health care providers are battling the opioid epidemic, which is impacting their communities at a disproportionate rate. There is also a demand for greater expansion of broadband internet to increase rural access to innovative health care technologies. 


The purpose of National Rural Health Day

An entire day dedicated to rural health gives the country a chance to acknowledge the impact that rural health care organizations have outside just their local communities. The celebration recognizes the strength, resilience and community-minded spirit of the hundreds of thousands of rural health care providers.

Uniting behind the common goal of improving rural health is what will move the needle on a state and federal level. While there is plenty of work to be done, collective efforts can help lessen—and eventually eliminate—the divide between rural and urban care


How to celebrate National Rural Health Day

Here are a few ways to showcase the “Power of Rural”:

Take the pledge

The Pledge to Partner was designed to strategically align people who want to advance rural health objectives. The four components of the pledge are:

1. Collaborate
2. Communicate
3. Educate
4. Innovate

Leverage the NOSORH toolkit

NOSORH provides a stakeholder toolkit full of outstanding resources to amplify the message of National Rural Health Day. Although the toolkit is designed for hospitals, clinics, first responders and others who serve the health needs of rural communities, individuals can also use these resources. The customizable templates make it easy to employ the materials in outreach efforts to schools, churches, local media outlets and neighborhood businesses. 

Go for a walk

The Walk with a Doc program encourages people of all ages in to participate in healthy physical activity. A typical walk features a brief health-related presentation by a doctor, followed by a doctor-led walk that allows participants to go at their own pace. Healthy snacks, coffee and blood pressure checks are sometimes included. Both rural and urban hospitals and clinics are encouraged to host these fun and easy events that offer attendees a rare opportunity to connect with health care providers in a non- medical setting.

Social media promotion

Social media channels are effective platforms to spread the word about the #PowerOfRural. Posting, liking and sharing informative content; and engaging in dynamic online conversations about rural health topics will keep the mission of National Rural Health Day alive all year.  

Cerner is proud to celebrate National Rural Health Day. Through Cerner CommunityWorks, we deliver cloud-based EHR technology and managed services that empower rural health care organizations to keep up with the ever-changing health care landscape. Learn more here.