VA Celebrates National Rural Health Day

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WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Rural Health (ORH) is joining the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) and other state and national rural stakeholders in celebrating the first-ever National Rural Health Day today.

“National Rural Health Day provides an excellent opportunity to bring attention to the health of rural Americans and the challenges they face in accessing health care,” said Dr. Robert A. Petzel, VA under secretary for health.  “It is also a great time to raise awareness about the health care needs of Veterans living in rural areas and VA initiatives designed to serve this unique population.”

NOSORH created National Rural Health Day to showcase rural America; increase awareness of rural health-related issues; and promote the efforts of NOSORH, state offices of rural health, and others in addressing those issues. Plans call for National Rural Health Day to become an annual celebration on the third Thursday of each November.

Rural and frontier communities face unique health care needs. “Today more than ever, rural communities must tackle accessibility issues, a lack of health care providers, the needs of an aging population suffering from a greater number of chronic conditions, and larger percentages of un- and underinsured citizens,” said NOSORH Director Teryl Eisinger.

ORH welcomes this opportunity to join in “Celebrating the Power of Rural” and to raise awareness about ORH’s mission to improve access and quality of care for the 6.1 million Veterans living in rural areas. Currently, 3.3 million rural Veterans are enrolled in the VA system, which represents 41 percent of the total enrolled Veteran population. Men and women from geographically rural and highly rural areas make up a disproportionate share of Servicemembers and comprise about one-third  of the enrolled Veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.

Since its inception in 2007, ORH has supported well over 500 projects and programs to improve access to VA health care services for rural Veterans, bringing care closer to home through telemedicine, new clinical facilities, transportation programs, expansion of home-based primary care into rural areas, training of rural community-based outpatient clinic providers, rural outreach and health literacy programs, new models of health care delivery and expansion of mental health programs into rural areas.

ORH is collaborating with state offices of rural health to address accessibility issues and a lack of health care providers in rural areas. All 50 states maintain a state office of rural health, each of which shares a similar mission: to foster relationships, disseminate information and provide technical assistance that improves access and the quality of health care for its rural citizens.

Events recognizing National Rural Health Day and “Celebrating the Power of Rural” are being planned throughout the nation. Mary Beth Skupien, PhD, ORH director, will join NOSORH Director Teryl Eisinger for a National Rural Health Day Webinar. Skupien will share information about rural Veterans and VA rural health initiatives.

Additional information about National Rural Health Day can be found on NOSORH’s Web site at www.celebratepowerofrural.org.  For additional information about the VHA Office of Rural Health, visit the ORH website at www.ruralhealth.va.gov.

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