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The Tennessee Area Health Education Center Scholars Program

The Tennessee Area Health Education Center (TN AHEC) Scholars Program is part of a national initiative to prepare tomorrow’s health professionals to become leaders in inter-professional, transformative practice settings, and to serve in areas and populations with the greatest needs.

TN AHEC is currently accepting applications for the 2024-2026 cohort at all regional locations for the Tennessee Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Scholars Program: Central (Nashville); Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center (MWCHC); East and Southeast (Knoxville/Chattanooga); Cherokee Health Systems and West (Memphis); Christ Community Health Services.

The TN AHEC Program promotes a coordinated approach to education and training for graduate level health professions students with the knowledge and skills to provide culturally competent, quality health care services, especially in rural and medically underserved areas. 

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Men's Health Month

Men's Health Month, observed every June, plays a crucial role in raising awareness about health issues affecting men and boys. This dedicated month serves as a pivotal time to encourage early detection and treatment of diseases more prevalent among men, such as heart disease, cancer, and mental health disorders. The aim is to foster health consciousness and encourage men to adopt healthier lifestyles. By focusing on preventive care and regular check-ups, Men’s Health Month seeks to reduce the gap in health outcomes between genders, given that men, statistically, are less likely to seek medical attention and more likely to suffer from serious health conditions at younger ages.

One of the central themes of Men's Health Month is promoting regular medical check-ups. Men are often conditioned to avoid doctors and disregard symptoms until they become severe. This cultural stigma can lead to late diagnoses of conditions that could have been managed more effectively with early intervention. For instance, prostate cancer, one of the most common cancers among men, has a significantly better prognosis if detected early. Regular screenings and health assessments can lead to early detection of many issues, thereby improving the chances of successful treatment and reducing healthcare costs in the long run.

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Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Skin Cancer Awareness Month, observed each May, is a crucial campaign aimed at educating the public about the dangers of skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the United States. This month-long initiative is spearheaded by organizations such as the American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation. It emphasizes the importance of early detection and prevention, providing valuable information on how to recognize the signs of skin cancer and the steps one can take to protect their skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The campaign highlights that skin cancer, though highly prevalent, is also one of the most preventable and treatable cancers when detected early.

Understanding the types of skin cancer is a key component of Skin Cancer Awareness Month. The three primary types are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common and less aggressive, but melanoma, though less common, is far more dangerous and can be deadly if not caught early. Public education during this month focuses on recognizing the symptoms of these cancers, such as new growths, changes in existing moles, or any skin changes that persist and do not heal. Early detection through regular skin examinations can significantly improve the prognosis for individuals with skin cancer.

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National Women's Health Week

National Women's Health Week, observed annually in May, serves as a crucial reminder of the significance of women's well-being. It's a dedicated time for women of all ages to prioritize their health by scheduling check-ups, screenings, and engaging in healthy habits. This initiative aims to empower women to take control of their health, encouraging them to make informed decisions about their bodies and lifestyles.

The importance of National Women's Health Week lies in its emphasis on prevention and early detection of health issues specific to women. From reproductive health to heart disease and mental health, women face unique challenges that require tailored care. By promoting regular health screenings and encouraging healthy behaviors, this week-long event plays a pivotal role in reducing the prevalence of preventable diseases and improving overall health outcomes for women.

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Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month, observed throughout May, serves as a crucial platform to educate, raise awareness, and reduce stigma surrounding mental health issues. It offers an opportunity for individuals, communities, and organizations to come together to promote understanding and support for those struggling with mental health challenges.

One of the primary goals of Mental Health Awareness Month is to destigmatize mental health conditions and encourage open conversations about mental well-being. By shedding light on the prevalence of mental illness and emphasizing that it is a natural part of the human experience, the month seeks to empower individuals to seek help without fear of judgment or discrimination. Through advocacy efforts and sharing personal stories, people are encouraged to recognize the importance of prioritizing mental health care and seeking support when needed.

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2024 Middle Tennessee Regional Event

Tuesday, April 23rd, we had the opportunity to host our last regional event of the season at Fall Creek Falls State Park and see our middle region members. Members had the opportunity to hear from professionals on topics including MAT in Emergency Department Settings, current drug trends, social drivers of health, and more!

The presentation topics and speakers can be found below:

  • Addressing Social Drivers of Health findhelp This presentation discusses why addressing social drivers of health and why understanding social determinants are essential for creating equitable health systems and fostering healthier communities overall. Access full presentation here.
  • Naloxone Training Suzanne Angel, ROPS Join us to learn from the Middle Regional Overdose Prevention Specialist about administering naloxone and further prevention efforts. Access full presentation here.
  • MAT in Emergency Department Settings Kayla Mehr, TDMHSAS Join us as we talk with Kayla Mehr about MAT in the Emergency Department Settings. Access to full presentation can be found here.
  • Suicide Prevention Melissa Alardo, TDH Join us as we talk about suicide prevention and its correlation to SUD. Access full presentation here
  • TDH & RHA Programs and Updates Join us as we go over current program updates with not only the Rural Health Association but the Tennessee Department of Health. Access full presentation here.

Perscription Drug Take-Back Day

Prescription Drug Takeback Day plays a crucial role in addressing the public health crisis of prescription drug abuse and misuse. Unused or expired prescription medications pose significant risks when left in homes, as they can be accessed by unauthorized individuals, including children, teenagers, and individuals with substance use disorders. Prescription Drug Takeback Day provides a safe and convenient way for individuals to dispose of these medications properly, reducing the likelihood of diversion, accidental ingestion, and environmental contamination.

Furthermore, Prescription Drug Takeback Day helps prevent prescription drug abuse by removing unused medications from circulation. Research has shown that a significant portion of prescription drug abuse begins with medications obtained from family members or friends, often without their knowledge. By encouraging individuals to safely dispose of unused medications, Takeback Day reduces the availability of prescription drugs for misuse and helps prevent the initiation of substance use disorders, particularly among young people who may experiment with prescription medications.

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May 2024 RHC Lunch and Learn: Moving the Needle of Change - Caring for Patients with Opioid Use Disorder in Tennessee

May 22, 2024 RHC Lunch and Learn: Moving the Needle of Change - Caring for Patients with Opioid Use Disorder in Tennessee 

Speaker: Kayla Williams Mehr, PMHNP | MOUD Clinical Specialist with Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS)

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National Infant Immunization Week

National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) is a vital campaign that emphasizes the significance of timely vaccination for infants and young children. Immunization during early childhood is crucial for protecting against vaccine-preventable diseases, safeguarding individual health, and promoting community immunity. NIIW provides a dedicated platform to raise awareness about the importance of infant immunization, educate parents and caregivers about vaccination schedules, and encourage healthcare providers to prioritize immunization efforts.

One of the primary objectives of National Infant Immunization Week is to ensure that infants and young children receive the recommended vaccines according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Vaccination schedules are carefully designed to provide protection against a range of infectious diseases, including measles, mumps, rubella, polio, pertussis, and influenza. By adhering to these schedules and ensuring that infants receive their vaccinations on time, NIIW helps prevent the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases and reduces the risk of outbreaks in communities.

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TN-RHC Network Annual Meeting - June 2024

Rural Health Association of Tennessee is excited to host the Tennessee Rural Health Clinic (TN-RHC) Network Annual Meeting on Tuesday, June 25, 2024 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The meeting will cover RHC specific topics such as TennCare Updates, Emergency Preparedness, Compliance (Survey Tips and Strategies), Social Determinants of Health (data collection, coding and reporting), Quality Improvement projects, and more!

Location: The View at the Fountains, Murfreesboro, TN
Time: 8:30am - 4:15pm CST
Cost: Free for RHC Network Members/$50 for Non-Members.

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Healthy Smiles Student Loan Repayment Program

The Healthy Smiles Student Loan Repayment Program provides educational loan repayment to qualified dentists, hygienists, and dental assistants in exchange for a service obligation to practice full-time at dental clinics located in medically underserved areas. 

  • Dentists receive up to $300,000 for a 3-year service obligation
  • Hygienists receive up to $50,000 for a 2-year service obligation
  • Dental assistants receive up to $20,000 for a 2-year service obligation

 Practitioner Eligibility Requirements: 

  • Must be a United States citizen or permanent resident. 
  • Must be licensed to practice in Tennessee (dentists/hygienists). 
  • Must agree to use the Tennessee Dental Repayment Incentive Program funds only to repay qualifying educational loans. 
  • Must have no obligation for health professional services and have not breached a health professional contract. 
  • Must agree to pay damages for breach of service. 
  • Must not have a judgment lien against his/her property for a debt to the United States, any federal debt written off as non-collectible, or any federal service or payment obligation waived. 
  • Must be willing to commit to a service agreement contract for a minimum of three (3) years for dentists, and two (2) years for hygienists and assistants. 
  • Must provide services in a rural or medically underserved area of Tennessee.
  • Must work full-time. 
For the Application and more information, click here.

Tennessee Brighter Futures: Criminal Justice Resources

Brain Links is sharing a brief set of Criminal Justice resources as part of our Tennessee Brighter Futures (TBF) Collaborative. The TBF mission is Building brighter futures for Tennesseans by improving how systems of support collaborate to identify, educate and serve people with co-occurring needs.

Below is a snapshot of Criminal Justice Resources:

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2024 West Tennessee Regional Event

Tuesday, April 9th, we had the opportunity to host our regional event at Paris Landing State Park and see our west region members. Members had the opportunity to hear from professionals on topics including MAT in Corrections, current drug trends, social drivers of health, and more. 

The presentation can be found below:

  • Naloxone Training Melesa Lassiter & Jennifer Watkins, ROPS  In this presentation we learn from the West Regional Overdose Prevention Specialist about administering naloxone and further prevention efforts. Find the full presentation here.
  • MAT in Corrections Kristen Zak, TDH In this presentation we talk with Kristen Zak about the MAT in corrections pilot program she has been managing in East TN the last two years. Find the full presentation here.
  • Addressing Social Drivers of Health findhelp In this presentation we discuss why addressing social drivers of health and why understanding social determinants are essential for creating equitable health systems and fostering healthier communities overall. Find the full presentation here.
  • TDH & RHA Programs and Updates In this presentation we go over current program updates with not only the Rural Health Association but the Tennessee Department of Health. Find the full presentation here.

Help Combat Tennessee's Continued Rise in Syphilis Cases

Adequate screening, detection, and treatment of syphilis during pregnancy is critical to reducing cases. The Tennessee Department of Health screening guidelines published in January 2024 include: 

  • All pregnancies to be tested for syphilis in the 1st trimester or at the 1st prenatal care visit.
  • Rescreening for syphilis at 28-32 weeks gestation and delivery is highly encouraged by TDH for ALL patients, regardless of first-trimester test results.
  • If a patient is getting a pregnancy test in an emergency department or outpatient/walk-in setting, TDH highly encourages concurrent sexually transmitted infection testing including syphilis. Cases of Congenital Syphilis can be prevented if syphilis has been detected and treated at the time the time pregnancy was diagnosed.
  • If a patient has a vaginal complaint in pregnancy that requires a workup, strongly consider testing for syphilis in addition to your other testing.
  •  If a patient faces obstacles to care, TDH recommends starting syphilis treatment right away following a positive rapid syphilis test during pregnancy. Send for full confirmatory syphilis testing for optimal patient follow-up. 
  • All women who experience stillbirth after 20 weeks should be tested for syphilis.
  • Infants should not leave the hospital without the serologic status of the infants’ mother having been documented at least once during pregnancy.
  • Congenital syphilis should be considered in infants of mothers with evidence of syphilis infection during pregnancy, especially if syphilis is newly acquired during pregnancy.

 

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Black Maternal Health Week

Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW) is a critical initiative aimed at addressing the significant disparities in maternal health outcomes experienced by Black women in the United States. This dedicated week takes place from April 11th-17th and raises awareness about the disproportionate rates of maternal mortality and morbidity among Black women and advocates for policies and interventions to improve Black maternal health outcomes. In rural areas, where access to quality healthcare services is often limited and disparities in healthcare delivery are exacerbated, BMHW holds particular importance in highlighting and addressing the unique challenges faced by Black mothers.

In rural communities, Black maternal health disparities are compounded by factors such as geographic isolation, limited healthcare infrastructure, and socioeconomic barriers. Black women in rural areas often face barriers to accessing prenatal care, maternal health services, and obstetric care providers, leading to delays in receiving essential care and increased risks during pregnancy and childbirth. BMHW provides a platform to amplify the voices of Black mothers in rural areas, advocate for equitable access to healthcare services, and address systemic issues that contribute to disparities in maternal health outcomes.

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Public Health Awareness Month


Public Health Awareness Month holds particular significance for rural areas, where access to healthcare services and health education can be limited. In rural communities, residents often face unique challenges such as geographic isolation, limited healthcare infrastructure, and socioeconomic disparities, which can contribute to poorer health outcomes. Public Health Awareness Month provides a crucial opportunity to address these disparities by raising awareness about prevalent health issues and promoting access to healthcare resources in rural areas.

One of the key benefits of Public Health Awareness Month in rural areas is its role in increasing health literacy and empowering residents to make informed decisions about their health. By providing information about preventive measures, early detection of diseases, and healthy lifestyle choices, public health initiatives during this month can help rural residents take proactive steps to improve their well-being. This education is especially vital in rural areas where healthcare providers may be scarce, and individuals may have limited access to medical expertise.


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Rural Health Disparities Across Tennessee and the Upper Cumberland

Join us on April 17 from 11AM - 12PM for an informative lunch session hosted by Upper Cumberland Council on Children and Youth, Rural Health Association of Tennessee, and Power of Putnam. Discussion topics will cover substance use disorder, maternal health, emergency preparedness, and access to care in rural TN. Don't miss out on this exciting opportunity to grow and learn together!

Guest Speaker:

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RHA-RCORP Program is Offering Funding for Trainings for Rural Organizations

The Rural Health Association is offering funding for paraprofessional trainings benefiting mental and behavioral health for HRSA defined rural organizations. If your business is interested in training someone in your community or a staff member, please reach out to our RCORP director Jessica Rackley at [email protected]Below you can find a list of trainings eligible for funding:

Substance Use Disorder Treatment Training: Training for healthcare providers on evidence-based practices for treating substance use disorders (SUDs), including opioid addiction. This can include medication-assisted treatment (MAT) training, counseling, and support services.

Mental Health First Aid Instructor training: Courses that teach individuals how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders in their community.

Cultural Competency Training: Training for healthcare providers on how to effectively address and treat the unique needs of diverse rural populations, including understanding cultural differences, stigma, and barriers to accessing care.

Integrated Care Models Training: Training on models that integrate primary care with mental health and substance use disorder services, aiming to provide a holistic approach to patient care.

Stipends for Peer Support Specialist Certification: Training for individuals with lived experience of SUDs to become certified peer support specialists, offering guidance and support to others undergoing treatment and recovery.

Prevention Strategies Training: Training on implementing community-based strategies to prevent substance misuse and addiction, including education on the risks of opioid use and strategies to reduce prescription drug misuse.

Stigma Reduction Training: Programs aimed at reducing the stigma associated with mental health and substance use disorders, encouraging individuals to seek help and support.

Leadership and Program Development Training: training on program development, management, and sustainability.

World Doula Week

World Doula Week holds significant importance in raising awareness about the invaluable role of doulas in maternal and infant healthcare. Doulas, often referred to as birth companions or birth coaches, provide physical, emotional, and informational support to mothers before, during, and after childbirth. This week-long observance serves as a platform to highlight the vital contributions doulas make in promoting positive birth experiences, reducing medical interventions, and supporting the overall well-being of mothers and babies worldwide.

In rural areas, the need for doulas becomes even more pronounced due to various challenges faced by expectant mothers and their families. Limited access to healthcare facilities, including hospitals and obstetric care, is a prevalent issue in many rural communities. Doulas play a crucial role in bridging this gap by offering continuous support during labor and delivery, especially when medical resources are scarce or distant. Their presence can help alleviate anxieties, provide comfort measures, and advocate for the mother's preferences, ensuring a safer and more empowering birth experience.

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2024 East Tennessee Regional Event

Our 2024 Spring Regional events are in swing! Tuesday, March 19th, we had the opportunity to host our regional event at East Tennessee University and see our east region members. Members had the opportunity to hear from professionals on topics including substance use and behavioral disorders in rural communities, current drug trends, and more. 

The presentation can be found below:

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