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NCDHHS Office of Rural Health joins nationwide observance of National Rural Health Day on Nov. 17

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RALEIGH — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Rural Health is proud to recognize the selfless, community-minded spirit of health professionals and volunteers in North Carolina communities during National Rural Health Day 2022. National Rural Health Day falls on the third Thursday in November each year and recognizes the efforts of those serving the health needs of those in rural areas, including those who serve the 4.6 million people who live in one of the 80 rural counties across North Carolina.

The North Carolina Rural Health Association’s 2022 Rural Snapshot, an assessment of more than 30 health indicators, finds there are often two North Carolinas when it comes to health care, with sharp disparities between urban and rural areas of the state. The NC Rural Health Snapshot reveals significant challenges for the state’s most vulnerable communities and populations in mental health care, maternity services and access to primary care. The report finds that of North Carolina’s 100 counties, 30 have no active, practicing psychologist, according to the UNC Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services. This finding comes as symptoms of anxiety and depression due to impacts during the COVID-19 pandemic have increased across North Carolina, and access to care for North Carolina rural communities continues to be a challenge.

“The data highlighted in this year’s Rural Health Snapshot exemplifies the importance of supporting the health and well-being needs of our most vulnerable communities and elevating the voices of rural healthcare leaders from across the state,” said Donald Hughes, Director of Community Voice at the Foundation for Health Leadership and Innovation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found rural communities had a higher rate of unhealthy behaviors, less access to health care and less access to healthy foods compared to urban areas. In North Carolina, where 41% of the state’s population (4.6 million people) live in rural areas, the study has larger implications.

“The pandemic showcased issues rural communities continue to have regarding health. This includes not just access to health care, it is access to housing, food, transportation, educational resources, good jobs and broadband,” said ORH Director Maggie Sauer. “These are needed to support health and community vitality. Our work is becoming multi-dimensional, more inclusive of a broader picture for rural. Amongst these includes needed Medicaid expansion which would greatly increase not only access to care but a return on investment — particularly for our rural communities. Our rural health providers have faced unique challenges in the past two years providing critical access to care, as well as helping rural communities with vaccine hesitancy and finding resources to keep their community healthy. Those champions have been tireless and courageous. The real asset rural communities have is partnership, collaboration and a cultural philosophy about helping your neighbor. That is the power of rural.”

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North Carolinians and stakeholders are invited to participate in the following planned National Rural Health Day activities to celebrate the “Power of Rural.”

2022 National Rural Health Day Celebration (NC): Driving Change – Local Heroes Going the Extra Mile
Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022
9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

As part of National Rural Health Day, this virtual event is an opportunity to “Celebrate the Power of Rural” by honoring the selfless, community-minded spirit that prevails in rural America. NRHD showcases the efforts of rural health care providers, State Offices of Rural Health and other rural stakeholders to address the unique health care challenges rural citizens face today and in the future.

A special presentation of the National Rural Health Day Gubernatorial Proclamation will be made, recognition of North Carolina’s Community Star and a celebration of hometown heroes. The event is sponsored by the NC Rural Health Association, NC Office of Rural Health, NC Rural Center and Hometown Strong. To register for the event, visit https://bit.ly/NCNRHD22.

Rural health stakeholders can explore a partnership pledge, showcase individuals and organizations selected as 2022 Community Stars and provide visitors with a variety of tools, including social media posts to help #PowerofRural trend on social media to bring greater awareness. For more information and to see how rural communities across the country will be celebrating National Rural Health Day visit www.PowerofRural.org.

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