On Thursday, November 17, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and the Office of Rural Health and Primary Care is recognizing National Rural Health Day. This day was created to increase the awareness of rural health-related issues and changes. We also want to recognize those who are working to improve the health and well-being of the millions of people living in America’s rural communities.

The theme of National Rural Health Day is “Celebrating the Power of Rural Health.” By following the theme, physicians, nurses, EMTs and other health workers are given a voice to proclaim their dedication to caring for our country’s often overlooked rural areas. This is why Governor Asa Hutchinson proclaimed November 17 to be Rural Health Day.

People who live in rural Arkansas find it difficult to obtain health care because there is a shortage of healthcare facilities in their communities. For example, 46 counties in Arkansas have only one hospital and 21 counties have no hospitals. Of Arkansas’s 75 counties, all but 23 counties have designated Primary Health Care Shortage Areas (HPSAs). Overall, there are 867 residents in Arkansas for every one primary care doctor compared to 631 residents for every one primary care doctor in the United States.

The ADH Office of Rural Health and Primary Care works to address these challenges in communities across the state. Programs include:

· Providing consultation and technical assistance to rural communities for the purpose of developing viable health care services in their communities.

· Administering state grant programs designed to assist rural communities in maintaining local health care.

· Operating a health professional clearinghouse to assist rural and underserved areas to recruit and retain health professionals.

· Providing technical assistance and training opportunities to rural hospitals that have converted to Critical Access Hospital status.

· Coordinating federal, state and other efforts focusing on access to health care.

For more information, visit www.healthy.arkansas.gov.