Meeting the Needs of Ohio's Rural Citizenry

  • Calesaric, Heather C.

The mission of the Office of Primary Care and Rural Health at the Ohio Department of Health is to work towards assuring access to affordable, quality health care for all of the state's residents. Ohio's State Office of Rural Health helps to achieve this goal by focusing on the specifics needs and problems of rural areas.

With regard to statewide rural policy coordination, the State Office of Rural Health in January of 1993 conducted twelve regional rural health meetings throughout the state in order to identify the priority health care needs within our rural communities. A number of agencies and organizations assisted the office in planning these meetings, and continue to be integrally involved in State Office of Rural Health activities. Those organizations include: The Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Pr gram, Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Hospital Association (OHA), Ohio Primary Care Association (OPCA), and the Ohio State University Rural Health Consortium.

Participants generated 124 separate issues and concerns at these regional meetings, and were then asked to respond to a questionnaire whereby they indicated the importance of each of the 124 issues on a scale of one to ten. The results of this questionnaire were then used as a basis for a statewide rural health conference held in November of 1993.

The statewide rural health conference, Ohio's Rural Health: A Vision for the Future, brought together over 100 rural health care providers and consumers from throughout the state to share information and ideas and brainstorm future directions and initiatives to better serve Ohio's rural constituents. Topics addressed at the conference included the following: decreasing the incidence and severity of agricultural hazards and accidents; addressing the emergency medical needs of our rural population; curbing and epidemic: HIV/AIDS in rural areas; rural school health education: future directions; rural teen pregnancy; rural physician recruitment and retention; rural hospitals: challenge and change; and increasing the utilization of advanced practice nurses and physician assistants in rural area. Initial recommendations as to how to address each of these issues were formulated in work group sessions at the conference.

The role of the Ohio Department of Health, and specifically the State Office of Rural Health, in this initiative was conceived as three-fold: to provide the leadership needs to keep this process moving; to help our rural constituents come up with viable recommendations for solutions to identified problems; and to work through existing systems for the changes that will allow solutions to be enacted. We are continuing in this endeavor.

This research abstract was extracted from a portion of the proceedings of "Agricultural Safety and Health: Detection, Prevention and Intervention," a conference presented by the Ohio State University and the Ohio Department of Health, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

H.C. Calesaric, The Ohio Department of Health, Columbus, OH.

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