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Transform Rural Health Campaign

by eddym
Wed, Sep 13th 2023 12:00 pm

Health Foundation Launches Transform Rural Health Campaign to Raise Awareness of Disparities, Call for Systemic Change 

The Health Foundation for Western & Central New York launched the Transform Rural Health campaign today to give voice to the people who live and work in New York’s rural communities, raise awareness of the health impact of historic disinvestment in rural areas, and call for systemic change and investment to address these disparities.

Through the firsthand accounts of people who live there, the campaign highlights how public funding cuts to rural health programs and other infrastructure and economic challenges have led to poor health outcomes in these communities.

Explore the campaign and read the stories here.

Rural residents across the state face limited or unaffordable health care coverage, closure of health care facilities and a lack of physicians and other health care workers, inadequate transportation, limited food access, few career pathways, and housing shortages, among other barriers. Rural counties in New York State have a nearly 13 percent poverty rate, and 100 percent of the rural counties served by the Health Foundation include Health Professional Shortage Areas.

Even in the face of these statistics, funding for rural health networks—collaborative organizations that work together on innovative solutions to these challenges—has been drastically cut in recent years. In 2016, rural health programs were allocated $16.2 million in the New York State budget. Since then, the state has repeatedly reduced funding to these programs to $9.4 million in the 2023-24 budget. Other structural barriers to good health include the closure of hospitals and specialty care providers, poor transportation infrastructure, and rising housing costs.

The stories in the campaign highlight many of these issues, including: how a rural health team in Cayuga County sees the connection between the housing crisis and underfunded social service programs; people in Cattaraugus County struggling with the cost of health insurance premiums; and older adults in Dunkirk’s Puerto Rican community who are helping each other get to the doctor when they have no other transportation options.

Audiences are encouraged to take action in a number of ways, including contacting their elected officials and sharing their own stories on social media using the hashtag #TransformRuralHealth.

“We are honored to be entrusted with sharing the personal stories of the people we serve in western and central New York in order to influence systemic change and encourage greater investment in these issues,” said Nora OBrien-Suric, PhD, President of the Health Foundation. “Health disparities cross geographic and cultural lines. By acknowledging and addressing these issues head-on, we can create a ripple effect that improves health equity for all.”

The campaign follows an announcement in May 2023 of $450,000 in grants to six rural health networks. The campaign and the initial grants were made possible by a gift from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott to the Health Foundation in 2022. The Health Foundation also launched a rural health microgrant fund in 2022 to help support initiatives working to address health disparities.