Celebrated on the third Thursday of November each year, National Rural Health Day serves as a reminder of rural communities' unique challenges and opportunities and the need to ensure access to quality healthcare services for all, regardless of where they live.
At the SC Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare (CRPH), a center of excellence within the USC School of Medicine in Columbia, this celebration is a year-round commitment as the Center actively contributes to the well-being of our state's rural regions through sustainable healthcare delivery, training, and other educational initiatives, innovative programs, and robust research and evaluation.
"I think anything that amplifies our rural communities is a great thing," said CRPH Director Dr. Kevin Bennett. "National Rural Health Day serves as an excellent platform to showcase the outstanding programs that are making a positive impact. It's essential for all of us to improve our efforts in spreading the word about creativity, resilience, and the many positive aspects of rural South Carolina."
South Carolina faces several unique healthcare challenges in its rural areas, including a lack of healthcare providers and facilities, transportation obstacles, and elevated chronic illness rates. The Center has a central emphasis on improving maternal and child health due to South Carolina's poor infant and maternal maternity rates. This emphasis led to the support of several initiatives, such as iCARE programs, Connecting Communities, and Strategic Workforce and Training, which are dedicated to enhancing the well-being of mothers and children in the region.
"All of our programs do great work for their communities and patients," said Bennett. "There are several that we have seen make a large impact - such as the Pediatric Satellite clinics. We have also recently begun working with several maternity care outreach initiatives across the state – focusing on Hispanic and other underserved pregnant women. These programs will greatly impact both the mom and the child by providing services they otherwise would have gone without."
Looking to the future, the CRPH has long-term goals and strategies to empower rural communities in South Carolina."One of our main goals is to make a lasting impact by supporting sustainable, effective, and integrated programs into the larger system," said Bennett. "We have been discussing how to facilitate larger initiatives led by the affected communities so that our work will have a larger and more long-term impact. We have also discussed ideas on how to empower rural communities to drive change on their own."
Dr. Bennett offered the following advice when prompted about supporting rural communities and celebrating National Rural Health Day.
"First, find an event associated with Rural Health Day and check it out. Second, support these rural communities by visiting them – see their downtowns, art installations, and natural beauty. And finally, support the community leaders, policymakers, legislators, and others trying to make a difference in these communities."
To learn more about the SC Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare, visit www.scruralhealth.org.