What’s different about Rural Health Care?

“Rural Americans face a unique combination of factors that create disparities in health care not found in urban areas.”

Life is different in the country. The National Rural Health Association gets it:

“The obstacles faced by health care providers and patients in rural areas are vastly different than those in urban areas. Rural Americans face a unique combination of factors that create disparities in health care not found in urban areas. Economic factors, cultural and social differences, educational shortcomings, lack of recognition by legislators and the sheer isolation of living in remote rural areas all conspire to impede rural Americans in their struggle to lead a normal, healthy life.”

Read more, including some interesting statistics here. This link has also been posted on the Rural Health page of the site.


Health fair at St. James’, Quitman

Health Ministry in action-St. James’, Quitman holds health fair for Brooks County.

From this week’s issue of our Diocesan email newsletter, From the Field:

St. James’, Quitman
A Health Fair Day for Brooks County
For the second year in a row, St. James’ Church, Quitman, hosted a Health Fair Day. The October 16 event included screenings for vision, blood pressure, and blood sugar, as well as a check of the participants’ weight and body mass index. A free lunch was also provided by the church.

Plans are already underway for next year when it is hoped the health fair will be able to add to the screenings offered this year by giving free flu shots.


Physician shortages in rural Georgia

“Georgia is the ninth most populous state in the nation and it’s growing quickly. But it lags behind two-thirds of the country when it comes to recruiting doctors.”

An interesting piece by Georgia Public Broadcasting on what its like to practice medicine and live in rural Georgia with some good insights from physicians who practice in and around Jefferson and Emanuel Counties.

Read it all here.


The challenges of rural healthcare

Some thoughts on the practice of medicine in rural Georgia.

Dr. Donald Mirate, an opthalmologist from Valdosta, talks about the challenges of caring for patients in the rural setting:

Please count me as one who is interested in this organization.  We will have a challenge on our hands, as reduced reimbursements and increased capital needs for diagnostic equipment and computers will prevent the spread of quality healthcare to rural areas, and perhaps cause some providers to withdraw from these areas.  Concurrently, there is more difficulty for patients to travel to health centers, due to the cost of transportation and having to work.  We may be left with a few overworked general practice physicians in rural Georgia, and no way to bring patients and specialized providers together for proper diagnosis and treatment.  The scenario is that we can care for patients up to a certain point, but then they are out of luck.
For example, as an ophthalmologist, I would not want to be off somewhere attempting to diagnose and treat eye problems, without my office full of equipment.  To do so would violate the standard of care, and put myself and my patients at risk.  While this can be done in a third world country on a mission trip, it is not advisable in the United States.

It seems that our challenge is to develop a comprehensive rural health care delivery system, from primary care up to major trauma, within the constraints of geography, funding, time, and medical malpractice.  That should be easy!

What do you think the challenges are?


Why Health Ministries?

“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matt. 25:40)

Lots of people ask, “why should my church get involved in a health ministry?” Let’s take a look at rural health, which is especially appropriate for our diocese as most of the counties that are a part of the diocese are rural.

Rural health is characterized by “leasts.” Rural communities tend to have a disproportionately high number of least healthy, least wealthy, living in the least healthy communities, with the least support services and resources.*

This combination of “leasts” gives us a tremendous opportunity for mission, to live out our commitment to the Gospel by helping our neighbors and members of our own congregations. The opportunity may be as simple as a volunteering in a local free clinic, starting a screening program at your parish for diseases such as high blood pressure, or helping a member of your parish navigate the complex maze of health-related issues that come with caring for an elderly parent or spouse.

There is no shortage of needs in our diocese. Over the next few weeks we will be posting information on the various pages of the site so you can see how healthy your community is and where the ministry opportunities are. If you’re already participating in a health ministry, let us know what you are doing and how its working.

The harvest is indeed plenty are the laborers regrettably are few. Time to get started!

(The Rev.) Bob Polglase, MD, JD

*David M. Young. Rural Health Ministry-An Emerging Community of Practice. Available from here