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Supporting Rural Health Workforce

Community Training, Education, and Access for Medical Students (Community TEAMS) Act - H.R. 7258

Research shows that medical students receiving education and training in rural and underserved communities are more likely to stay and practice in those areas. The Community TEAMS Act will increase medical school clinical rotations in rural and underserved areas, strengthening the physician workforce pipeline and leading to greater healthcare access in these communities.

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American Heart Month: Wear Red Day

February is recognized as American Heart Month, a dedicated period to raise awareness about heart health and encourage individuals to adopt heart-healthy lifestyles. Cardiovascular diseases remain a leading cause of death globally, and American Heart Month serves as an important opportunity to educate the public about the risk factors associated with heart disease and the preventive measures that can be taken. During this month, various organizations, healthcare professionals, and communities come together to promote heart health through events, campaigns, and educational initiatives.

One notable event within American Heart Month is "Wear Red Day," celebrated on the first Friday of February. This day is specifically aimed at raising awareness about heart disease in women. Heart disease is often mistakenly considered a predominantly male issue, but it affects women at alarming rates. Wear Red Day encourages people to wear red clothing to show their support for heart health and to spark conversations about the importance of preventing heart disease in both men and women. The American Heart Association (AHA) is a key supporter of Wear Red Day, providing resources and information to help individuals understand the risks and take steps towards a heart-healthy lifestyle.

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National Cancer Prevention Month

National Cancer Prevention Month, observed every February, is a crucial awareness initiative that underscores the significance of proactive measures in reducing the risk of cancer. This month serves as a platform to educate individuals about lifestyle choices, early detection, and regular screenings that can contribute to preventing various types of cancer. By promoting healthy behaviors such as maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption, individuals can significantly lower their risk of developing cancer.

Maintaining one's health is paramount in the fight against cancer. Adopting a nutritious diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provides essential vitamins and antioxidants that bolster the body's immune system and help combat the development of cancerous cells. Regular physical activity not only aids in weight management but also contributes to overall well-being, reducing the risk of certain cancers. Additionally, steering clear of tobacco products and moderating alcohol intake are crucial steps in cancer prevention, as these substances are known to be major contributors to various types of cancer.

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Statement on Jellico Regional Hospital

Rural Health Association of Tennessee (RHA) is closely monitoring the situation between Boa Vida Healthcare, Progressive Health, and the City of Jellico concerning the ownership and future of Jellico Community Hospital.

Over the past several months, RHA received numerous requests and statements of concern about Jellico Community Hospital. RHA’s Chief Executive Officer, Jacy Warrell, visited the community, met with local advocates, and has provided several resources aimed to help community leaders gather information and explore various delivery of care options, as well as funding sources that may benefit the community.

Rural Health Association of Tennessee is in full support of the decision made by Jellico City Council. Since Jellico Community Hospital closed and reopened, there are several new federal programs that may work to the community’s advantage, such as the Rural Emergency Hospital (REH) program. Alternatively, or perhaps additionally, the community could establish a 501c3 nonprofit Rural Health Clinic and/or Behavioral Health services that could bring more resources to Jellico. Currently proposals presented to the City of Jellico include a pain management clinic and orthopedics unit.

We will continue to work with the community and interested parties in developing solutions that meet the needs of the community.

National Maternal Health Day: Maternal Health in Rural Areas

Maternal health is a critical aspect of overall well-being, and its significance is particularly pronounced in rural communities. In these areas, access to quality healthcare resources is often limited, posing unique challenges for pregnant women and new mothers. The lack of easily accessible healthcare facilities, skilled professionals, and educational programs can lead to delayed or inadequate prenatal care, increasing the risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Addressing maternal health in rural communities is essential for ensuring the health and survival of both mothers and their newborns.

One of the primary reasons maternal health is crucial in rural areas is the vulnerability of pregnant women to complications. Limited access to prenatal care can result in undetected health issues, contributing to a higher incidence of maternal mortality and morbidity. Moreover, the physical distance to healthcare facilities may hinder timely emergency interventions, making it imperative to prioritize maternal health initiatives that bring services closer to rural communities. By improving access to prenatal care and skilled birth attendants, the likelihood of preventing and managing complications increases, positively impacting maternal and infant outcomes.

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National Diabetes Month: Diabetes in Rural Communities

Diabetes presents a growing health challenge in rural areas, shedding light on the importance of increased awareness and targeted interventions. In many rural communities, limited access to healthcare facilities, lower socioeconomic status, and a lack of public awareness compound the difficulties of managing diabetes. Routine health check-ups are often scarce, making early detection and monitoring of diabetes less likely. Risk factors such as poor dietary choices and limited opportunities for physical activity in rural areas can contribute to the higher incidence of diabetes. It is crucial to raise awareness about diabetes in these regions to help individuals understand the disease, its risk factors, and the resources available for prevention and management.

Diabetes awareness in rural areas can have a significant impact on the lives of those affected by the condition. By providing education about diabetes symptoms and risk factors, rural residents can become more proactive in seeking regular check-ups and adopting healthier lifestyles. Increased awareness also encourages healthcare providers to offer diabetes screening and management services in underserved regions, ensuring that rural populations have access to the care they need. Empowering communities with knowledge about diabetes creates a supportive environment for those living with the disease, reducing stigma and fostering understanding among family and friends.

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August 28 - September 1 is National CHW Awareness Week (NCHAW)

National Community Health Worker (CHW) Awareness Week is August 28 - September 1 and is the first ever national campaign with CHWs at the center!

The National Association of Community Health Workers has developed this event to increase awareness of CHW identity, roles, impact on communities, and leadership – and to promote policies that respect, protect and authentically partner with the CHW profession.

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August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month

National Breastfeeding Month is celebrated annually in August and is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance and benefits of breastfeeding for both infants and parents. The observance also aims to raise awareness of racial disparities in breastfeeding numbers and work towards reducing them by providing culturally sensitive support, education, and resources to communities facing more significant breastfeeding challenges. 

Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure a child's health and survival. Although more than 80 percent of mothers in the U.S. start off breastfeeding, less than a quarter exclusively breastfeed their baby at 6 months. According to the CDC, fewer non-Hispanic Black infants (74.1 percent) are ever breastfed compared with Asian infants (90.8 percent), non-Hispanic white infants (85.3 percent), and Hispanic infants (83.0 percent).

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NIMHD Leaders Author New Commentary on Health Disparities and Health Equity

In order to achieve health equity, access barriers need to be removed and high quality, need-based resources allocated. Health equity promotion is the aspirational guarantee of optimal health for all.

In this article, five actionable strategies for promoting health equity are summarized by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Often, meaningful equity work requires major shifts in approaches, dedicated resources, and targeted efforts toward social justice.

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Rural Health Care Task Force Releases Policy Recommendations

Tennessee's Rural Health Care Task Force, formed in June 2022 by Governor Bill Lee, has released a number of recommendations aimed at improving access to care and health outcomes for rural Tennesseans. In the report are recommendations to increase access to care, train healthcare professionals, and address social drivers of health.

Rural Health Association of Tennessee's CEO, Jacy Warrell, served as the Social Drivers of Health Subcommittee Chair, making recommendations to support grant programs that will allow rural communities to develop and implement their own innovative solutions to addressing social drivers locally. RHA's workforce program also received a nod and is included as a recommendation to address building healthcare career pathways for entry-level healthcare professionals.

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Rural Health Workforce Ready

Rural Health Association of Tennessee (RHA) released a Rural Health Workforce Ready report featuring successes  from their pilot workforce development program aimed at addressing the state’s workforce shortages.

The program launched in West Tennessee with funding from Delta Regional Authority and Amerigroup before expanding to other parts of the state. Over the past two years, RHA has assisted more than 300 aspiring healthcare professionals seeking certification and employment. To support career pathway development, RHA partnered with K-12 schools and community colleges to train more than 700 students in goal setting, healthcare careers, and communication skills.

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Rural Health Day on the Hill

RHA members and staff traveled to Nashville for the Rural Health Association's Day on the Hill March 7th, 2023. While there, RHA met with several members of Tennessee's legislative branch to talk Rural Health Workforce, Rural Health Clinic Modernization, and Maternal Health. 

A special thanks to the following offices for meeting with us:   

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Dr. Brenda Jones Testifies on importance of Doulas

Rural Health Association of Tennessee’s (RHA) Board Secretary, Dr. Brenda Jones, testified February 28th in from of  the Tennessee Senate’s Commerce and Labor Committee in support of Senate Bill 394/HB 738 that would establish a recognized Doula certification.

Dr. Jones is an assistant professor at Lee University, a CNM, FNP, Public Health Professional, residing in Bradley County, TN. Throughout her career as a Certified Nurse Midwife, she has attended over 2,500 deliveries. Dr. Jones’ full testimony can be viewed below along with a handout highlighting maternal health in Tennessee.

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Maternal Health Policy Brief

Tennessee has among the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the nation. RHA advocates for programs and

policies that prevent teenage pregnancy, provides case management services to pregnant women, and advances professional knowledge of providers.

RHA has published a Maternal Health in Tennessee policy brief modeled after the National Rural Health Association's 2021 Rural Obstetric Unit Closures and Maternal and Infant Health.

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National Rural Health Policy Institute

RHA members and staff traveled to Washington D.C. for the National Rural Health Association's Policy Institute February 7th - 9th 2023. While there, RHA met with several members of Tennessee's congressional delegation to talk Rural Hospitals, Rural Health Clinic Modernization, and Maternal Health.

A special thanks to the following offices for meeting with us:

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RHA of TN's Day on the Hill

Rural Health Association of Tennessee members met with several of Tennessee’s legislators and staffs on Wednesday, March 9th.

Topics of conversation ranged from discussing the Access to Naloxone Act, telehealth, health equity, and the importance of coordinated school health.

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National Rural Health Day on Capitol Hill

Rural Health Association of Tennessee members met with several of Tennessee’s federal Congressmen, Congresswomen, and staffs on Wednesday, February 9th.

Topics of conversation ranged from discussing the 340B drug program, Rural Health Clinic Modernization Act, and the importance of programs such as the National Health Service Corp and the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (R-CORP)

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NRHA Policy Institute

The National Rural Health Association's 33rd Annual Policy Institute has moved to a virtual platform! 

Join us on February 8-10 for the NRHA's Policy Institute to learn more about policy and have a chance to advocate for the issues you care about. Prices have dropped as the event has moved to a virtual platform. This is a great opportunity if you haven't been able to make it to D.C. in the past. Join other staff and members of Rural Health Association of Tennessee to advocate for the policies that effect you! A tentative schedule can be found here.

Find out more information and register 

Report on Behavioral Health Workforce

Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) and TennCare convened the  Tennessee Public Behavioral Health Workforce Workgroup in June 2021. Serving as convenors and facilitators of this workgroup, the agencies gathered a diverse group of stakeholders and professionals, each of whom was uniquely positioned to provide insight to this critical issue. This report represents the work of the Public Behavioral Health Workforce Workgroup and proposes short-term and long-term strategies that directly address recruitment and retention opportunities that can be implemented by local behavioral health providers, colleges and universities, and various Tennessee State Government Departments.

Pages 17 and 18 name replication of RHA's Apprenticeship program as a key strategy for promoting public behavioral health careers.

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Building Vaccine Confidence

RHA of TN Communications Toolkit 

Before getting vaccinated, people have the right to ask questions and have those questions answered so they can feel confident they are making the best choice for themselves and/or their family.

Click for a free communications toolkit to help build vaccine confidence among rural and other minority populations.

Access Toolkit and other resources