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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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Call for Proposals

The Rural Health Association of Tennessee's Call for Proposals for our 2024 Annual Conference is now open!

Join RHA as we celebrate 30 years of advocating for rural health in Tennessee. Submit proposals on your research, experience, collaborations, and projects related to the following: 

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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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TDH Measels Alert

The Tennessee Department of Health is issuing an urgent alert regarding a recent surge in measles cases, both domestically and globally, necessitating heightened awareness and proactive measures. Regrettably, many instances of measles infections have gone undetected within healthcare and community settings, resulting in prolonged exposure periods and sustained disease transmission. It is imperative for clinicians to promptly identify suspected cases of measles, institute isolation protocols swiftly, and notify public health authorities by reporting any suspected cases to the Tennessee Department of Health at 615-741-7247.

Moreover, the Tennessee Department of Health offers measles testing services, available upon prior consultation and approval from the Vaccine Preventable Diseases team. Attached resources include the Tennessee Health Alert Network (TNHAN) measles notification, Project Firstline AAP's Think Measles Info Sheet, and the recent CDC Health Advisory on measles. TNHAN Members are reminded to keep their contact profile information updated to ensure effective communication channels. This collaborative effort aims to curb the spread of measles and safeguard public health within Tennessee and beyond. An Archive of TNHAN notifications sent to licensed medical professionals can be found, here.

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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March RHC Lunch and Learn

Please join us for our next Lunch and Learn Session on Wednesday, March 27 at 12pm CST/1pm EST where we will introduce a new RHC benchmarking program supported by the Rural Health Association of Tennessee/RHC Network. This is now available to all network members at no cost. We hope this program not only provides you with valuable data about your RHCs but also helps to demonstrate the impact the network will have in the upcoming years.

Please join for a review of the web-based system and a discussion of next steps for how to access the tools and interpretation support. For more information about the program click here. To access this event email Christin McWhorter, RHC Network Director, at [email protected]

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Department of Health Releases 2024-2026 Health Plan

The 2024-2026 State Health Plan seeks to provide a pathway for achieving the Department’s vision: Healthy People, Healthy Communities, Healthy Tennessee.

Through evaluating data and engaging partners and the public to create recommendations across the four sections of the State Health Plan Framework (1. A Healthy Start; 2. A Healthy Life; 3. A Healthy Environment; 4. A Healthy System of Care), the Plan outlines how Tennesseans can work together to improve the health status of Tennesseans.

Download the Health Plan

2024 Rural Health Day on the Hill

RHA members and staff traveled to Nashville for the Rural Health Association's Day on the Hill March 5th, 2024. While there, RHA met with several members of Tennessee's legislative branch to talk Rural Health Workforce, Rural Health Clinic Modernization, and Expanding the Health Safety Net Eligibility and Reimbursement Rates. 

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

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Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, observed annually in March, serves as a crucial reminder of the importance of understanding and preventing colorectal cancer, which is one of the most common cancers worldwide. This month-long campaign aims to raise awareness about colorectal cancer risk factors, symptoms, screening options, and preventive measures. Through education and advocacy efforts, individuals are encouraged to take proactive steps to reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer and to promote early detection through regular screenings.

Preventive measures play a pivotal role in reducing the incidence and mortality rates associated with colorectal cancer. One of the most effective preventive measures is maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while limiting the consumption of red and processed meats. Regular physical activity also plays a significant role in reducing the risk of colorectal cancer, as it helps maintain a healthy weight and improves overall health.

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Nutrition Awareness Month

In the United States, food security remains a pressing issue, with millions of individuals and families facing challenges in accessing affordable and nutritious food. Rural areas, in particular, often bear the brunt of food insecurity due to limited access to grocery stores, fewer transportation options, and lower incomes compared to urban counterparts. These challenges are exacerbated by factors such as geographic isolation, limited employment opportunities, and reliance on agriculture, which can be susceptible to fluctuations in crop yields and market prices.

The impact of food insecurity in rural areas is profound, affecting not only physical health but also economic development and overall community well-being. Families may struggle to afford or access nutritious foods, leading to higher rates of diet-related illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Moreover, children in food-insecure households are at risk of developmental delays and academic struggles, perpetuating cycles of poverty and inequality.

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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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Beneficiary and Family Centered Care - Lunch and Learn

Join us February 28th, 2024 at 12:00 PM CST, for our monthly Rural Health Clinic lunch and learn webinar. This month's guest will be Kia Weaver, Outreach Specialist, with Kepro. 

Kepro is the Beneficiary and Family Centered Care Quality Improvement Organization (BFCC-QIO) for the 29 states. Beneficiaries and families can call Kepro to talk about healthcare-related questions such as whether they are ready for discharge from a hospital, rehabilitation facility, home health agency, or hospice.

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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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Health for All: A Language Inclusion Webinar Series

Join us for an eight-week webinar series, "Health for All: A Language Inclusion Webinar Series," to discuss varying populations within our rural communities that experience a larger gap in health disparities. This webinar series will be held weekly beginning on February 29th at 11am CST and go through April 25th.

Presentations will include the following: Rural Populations, Family Structure, Age and Ability, Domestic Violence Survivors, Gender and Sexual Orientation, Body Size and Weight, Substance Use Disorder, and Race and Ethnicity. Register for the webinars below, or email [email protected] to register for all.

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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.