National Rural Health Day is an annual observance that emphasizes the importance of rural America and promotes the need for accessible, high quality healthcare. National Rural Health Day falls on the third Thursday in November each year and recognizes the efforts of those serving the health needs of over 60 million people across the nation. This year’s observance is on November 18.
The Alabama Department of Public Health’s Office of Primary Care and Rural Health (OPCRH), Alabama Family Practice Rural Health Board, Alabama Hospital Association, Alabama Primary Health Care Association, Alabama Rural Health Association, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) Alabama Rural Health Collaborative are proud to recognize the innovation, quality of care, and dedication of health professionals and volunteers in the state during National Rural Health Day 2021.
This year, UAB’s Dr. Eric Wallace has been selected as a “Community Star” for exemplifying what it is to be a true champion of rural healthcare and for his many contributions in rural communities. Dr. Wallace is recognized as a “Community Star” by the National Organization of State Office of Rural Health for his efforts in developing and providing access to healthcare opportunities through telehealth services for patients in rural communities.
The annual “Community Stars” eBook publication honors and gives a personal voice to rural people, providers, advocates, and communities across the country. Dr. Wallace’s story will appear in the 2021 eBook that will be available on the powerofrural.org/ website, the official hub for National Rural Health Day and the Power of Rural movement, beginning November 18.
Rural healthcare professionals, hospitals, county health departments, and clinics provide healthcare in Alabama’s 54 rural counties, which are home to almost 2 million people. These rural communities have unique healthcare needs and challenges, including the distance to the nearest healthcare facility, have a population that is generally older, and have health conditions that require a greater need for healthcare.
Rural hospitals are the economic foundation of many rural communities, but they are being threatened with declining reimbursement rates and disproportionate funding levels that make it more difficult to serve their residents. OPCRH is dedicated to addressing these issues through programs such as the following:
Loan repayments for physicians, dentists and other healthcare professionals through the National Health Service Corps
No-cost recruitment of physicians using a national recruitment and retention database
Designation of physician and dental shortage areas for federal assistance programs
Assisting rural clinics in becoming certified to receive enhanced medical payments
In addition, OPCRH works closely with rural hospitals and safety net providers to identify problems and provide needed technical assistance and resources. More than 150 healthcare providers are presently working throughout the state under programs administered by OPCRH. Providers are dispersed among the state’s community health center service delivery sites, rural health clinics, and other providers. OPCRH’s services are available to any rural healthcare organization dedicated to providing accessible, high quality healthcare to its community.