Photo by FlickrCC
Nominations will soon close for the West Virginia Rural Health Awards, which recognize and celebrate students, health professionals and community advocates working hard to improve health care for West Virginians in rural communities.
The deadline for nominations is Monday, Sept. 3!
Here’s where you go for more info, and to submit a nomination: wvrha.org/west-virginia-rural-health-awards-2/
The award for Outstanding Rural Health Student recognizes a student from a school in West Virginia that has shown a commitment to providing health care in rural communities in this state, and includes $1,000 cash award.
Other awards include Outstanding Rural Health Provider, Excellence in Rural Health (Individual), and Excellence in Rural Health (Organization or Program).
The awards are hosted by the West Virginia Rural Health Association (WVRHA), and will be presented at its annual West Virginia Rural Health Conference at Pipestem Resort State Park, Oct. 17 – 19.
WVRHA Executive Director, Debrin Jenkins, said this week that with the state suffering from unprecedented health crisis, it was critically important to celebrate and uplift the tough work being done by people to tackle those challenges.
“These are the people on the front lines,” she says. “Rural communities, particularly in West Virginia, are under-funded and under-resourced, and they are where the toughest battles are being fought. It’s hard work, often thankless work, and there are people in these communities showing incredible commitment and strength to help their fellow West Virginians. We want to celebrate these people.”
Do you know someone working on the front lines of rural health care in West Virginia? Show them you appreciate them by nominating them today!
When Patti Crawford arrived in Hinton, West Virginia in April of 1977 to take up a position in the Cardiopulmonary Department at Summers County Hospital, the plan was to stay just one year.
But she stayed with the hospital for two decades, forging the beginning of a career that would one day see Patti become one of West Virginia’s most respected public health leaders, and a loved and trusted advocate for the health of underserved people in rural communities.
A former board member of the West Virginia Rural Health Association, Patti was recently honored by the National Rural Health Association for her contribution and service to the organization, particularly her expertise and efforts around health in rural communities, the opioid crisis, and rural workforce development.
“A culture of health can turn around a community in despair.”
It was the coal miners of West Virginia and their struggle to breathe that first inspired Patti to study respiratory therapy.
“Interestingly, there is quite an effort now in the state to endorse pulmonary rehabilitation,” she notes. “I have always been supportive of any efforts to help with pulmonary and cardiac diseases, as they are two of the biggest killers of our population.”
After nearly half century of fighting to improve health outcomes for people in West Virginia, Patti’s passion and sense of justice still burns bright.
“It’s unacceptable that one’s zip code can be more of a determinant to one’s health outcomes than one’s genetic code,” Patti says. “Rural women especially are dying at younger ages. This trend needs reversing.”
“In West Virginia, we have the distinction of being the state with the highest rate of opioid overdose deaths. There is light at the end of the tunnel but work must continue. Our rates of teen suicide are high. Our obesity and diabetes rates are high. All these conditions are diseases of despair. It is as if our collective soul has become clouded in darkness and we yearn to cleanse and set it free.”
“Healing oneself and sharing nourishing meals with family and friends is an Appalachian tradition, which can once again flourish. As a state, we just need to remember not to leave anyone behind.”
As dire as current conditions are, Patti sees good work happening in West Virginia, and it gives her hope and optimism for the future.
“There are movements within the state to engage communities in healthy behaviors,” she says. “Try This West Virginia, Active Southern West Virginia, and the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition are just a few. And the Center for Rural Health Development has developed a “Wild, Wonderful Healthy West Virginia” movement with regional coaching hubs to align economic development and community health to address social determinants of health.”
Patti believes that improving West Virginia’s health statistics will require collective actions by community leaders to inspire real community change.
“A culture of health can turn around a community in despair,” she says. “Williamson, in Mingo County, is one such example. Dino Beckett, D.O. is a physician who understands the importance of providing jobs and economic stability to allow community members to embrace healthy behaviors with locally sourced foods and opportunities for physical activity.”
Patti, who is currently the Director of Rural Outreach at West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, sees that West Virginia’s health outcomes can change when our communities embrace the importance of making their towns safe and healthy places to live for all its residents.
“In past roles I have worked with rural community groups to help them find the resources to create community health projects,” she says. “Many of them were building walking trails, restoring sidewalks to make communities safer for physical activity, and developing community gardening and nutrition outreach activities.”
“Together we can make change and create communities based on a culture of health. Healing oneself and sharing nourishing meals with family and friends is an Appalachian tradition, which can once again flourish.”
“As a state, we just need to remember not to leave anyone behind. Together communities can thrive to support an entrepreneurial spirit through policy, system, and environmental change. A healthy West Virginia is our collective vision that we need to act on today!”
The National Rural Health Association has thrown its support behind a new proposal to provide more resources and guidelines for rural hospitals help people treated for a drug overdose.
Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), have introduced a bill in the U.S. Congress – H.R. 5176, the Preventing Overdoses While in Emergency Rooms (POWER) Act – that would provide competitive grants for emergency departments in areas with high overdose rates.
These grants would allow qualifying facilities to hire recovery coaches, counselors, social workers and other professionals specializing in the treatment of substance abuse disorder, establish policies and procedures for the provision of overdose reversal medication, and increase the availability and access of medication-assisted treatment and other evidence-based treatment, among other things.
The legislation would also require the development of protocols for discharging patients who treated for a drug overdose and enhance the integration and coordination of care and treatment options for individuals with substance use disorder after they are discharged.
The National Rural Health Association wrote to both representatives last week to express our support for H.R. 5176.
This critical legislation provides preference for rural facilities, specifically Critical Access Hospitals, Sole Community Hospitals, and Low Volume Hospitals, in the grant process. Currently, 82.5 percent of rural counties do not have a single doctor with the ability to provide MAT, these communities are unable to access this crucial resource on the path to recovery.
You can learn more about the bill at www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr5176
To learn more about the National Rural Health Association and it’s legislative advocacy, visit www.ruralhealthweb.org
Photo: Brea Cunningham/FlickrCC
Supporting the next generation of health professionals and leaders is what inspires everyone at the West Virginia Rural Health Association.
It’s why we are always looking for new ways to engage with students and young health advocates. We know that West Virginia’s ability to overcome the pressing health challenges of today will depend on whether we can foster a strong and innovative public health workforce of talented professionals committed to rural people in this state.
People like Quintin Brubaker.
Quintin, who is currently studying medicine at West Virginia University, is the latest student to join WVRHA’s Board of Directors.
Having undergone medical training and study in three states across the region, he sees a need to evolve the way we think about health care and the role of traditional health care providers.
“The solution to many of the challenges will be not simply to provide more health care in the clinics and hospitals, but to find ways that communities can transform themselves with new models of health promotion, making changes that can be sustained,” he says.
“We’ll have to not only train and attract more health care workers, but also to ensure that our health care workforce is ready and able to fully engage the public about the urgency of these problems, and provide leadership in the context of community-driven health change.”
“The solution to many of the challenges will be to find ways that communities
can transform themselves with new models of health promotion.”
For Quintin, being a member of WVRHA is all about building those critical connections that will one day guide his career.
“Becoming involved with WVRHA is a way to complement my training as a clinician, and engage with an organization of people and institutions allied in pursuit of practical solutions to the state’s urgent health goals.”
If you are ready to be part of the coming generation of change in West Virginia, becoming a member of the West Virginia Rural Health Association is a great place to start.
Student memberships are just $10. Sign up now at wvrha.org/become-a-member/