November 17 is the first annual National Rural Health Day, a day to “Celebrate the Power of Rural “and the community-minded, creative spirit that makes our country thrive. One in five Americans call a rural community home. Here in Colorado, 20 percent of our population lives in rural or frontier counties and these counties make up nearly 80 percent of the landmass.
Rural communities are wonderful places to live and work. They are also some of the best places to start a business and test one’s “entrepreneurial spirit.” These communities provide the country with a wealth of services and commodities. Rural doesn’t necessarily mean “remote” – diverse economic, cultural, and recreational opportunities abound in rural Colorado. With a strong agricultural and ranching foundation, Colorado’s rural economies include small businesses and larger industries.
Rural communities face unique healthcare needs. We must address accessibility issues, healthcare provider shortages, the needs of an aging population experiencing a greater number of chronic conditions, and larger percentages of un- and underinsured residents. Rural hospitals and clinics are essential resources to meet the healthcare needs. Colorado’s 29 Critical Access Hospitals serve as healthcare anchors for their communities, offering an array of services to meet the local needs. Our 52 Rural Health Clinics, rural Community Health Centers, Community-funded Safety Net Clinics, and private practitioners reach beyond geographical boundaries to deliver essential quality care in remote areas. These healthcare facilities provide a solid economic base for their communities, employing local residents and generating $2.30 in additional business revenue with every dollar spent.
Being a rural healthcare provider offers tremendous opportunities to develop close relationships with patients and the community. Due to their limited numbers, rural providers frequently take a holistic, patient-centered approach and provide comprehensive care to patients with diverse needs. From implementing electronic health records to becoming recognized patient-centered medical homes, Colorado’s rural providers are making extraordinary transformations to meet the healthcare needs of their communities, with limited capital and human resources.
As the State Office of Rural Health, Colorado Rural Health Center is proud to support Colorado’s rural communities and health providers and has showcased some exceptional efforts for National Rural Health Day. While we face great challenges in addressing the healthcare needs in rural Colorado, National Rural Health Day reminds us to celebrate the spirit and ingenuity that epitomizes rural health.