October 14, 2020
By Victor Kulkosky
Rural health – does anybody care?
Well, the State of Georgia does. A 2018 bill created an office of rural health within the state’s Department of Community Medicine.
One result is the creation of the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center, which operates from Mercer University’s School of Medicine. The Mercer medical school’s mission focuses on training doctors to practice in rural areas and improving rural healthcare.
Darice Cudjoe, a Field Representative with the center, introduced the Fort Valley Kiwanis Club to their services last week.
In a few words, the center, “Supports rural communities through collaboration and cooperation,” Cudjoe said.
That collaboration and cooperation allows the Center to tailor their services to each community.
“We strive to learn about needs, and what the data tells us,” Cudjoe said.
She outlined the center’s 10 areas of focus, each an acute issue for rural communities in particular: Maternal and Child Health, Physician and Health Workforce Shortage, Health Literacy, Strategic Healthcare Availability and Access, Social Determinants of Health, Mental Health, Substance Use, Health Infrastructure, Rural Occupational Health and Aging Populations.
Each of those areas could be the topic of its own presentation. Cudjoe pointed out that Georgia is in 50th place for maternal mortality – mothers dying from health problems related to pregnancy and childbirth.
“Why is that the case?” Cudjoe said.
The answer could be different for each community.
“We’ll work with your community to address issues in a way that’s meaningful to you,” Cudjoe said.
She then gave a pop quiz, asking attendees to raise their hands for what they thought is Peach County’s rank in Georgia for Health Outcomes. Most of the attendees correctly guessed 115th. (That is, out of 159 counties, Peach County’s health outcomes are worse than 114 Georgia counties, and better than only 44 counties.)
“You must have read my presentation,” she joked.
Some factors in that ranking might be the 12.10% of the population that suffers from food insecurity, or 13.54% without health insurance – not even Medicare or Medicaid. Food insecurity measures include the number of grocery stores in a county- Peach has four for a population of about 27,000, she said.
One questions Cudjoe answered was “Who do we serve?” That included community members, healthcare providers, young people and researchers.
The Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center is fairly new and reaching out to rural communities, offering their collaboration and cooperation.
To learn about the center, call 478-301-4700, or visit GeorgiaRuralHealth.org.