Rural Health Services Provide Big Impact On Local Economy

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Rural health care providers make a big impact in Arizona's small, remote communities.

Not only do they help the quality of life for rural residents, they add substantial sums to the economies of the areas.

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Judy Baker, Mogollon Health Alliance director

The economics of rural health care will be discussed in several sessions at the 32nd Annual Arizona Rural Health Conference in Payson, July 17-19. The event itself will also have a fair impact on the Rim country's economy, according to Judy Baker, director of the Mogollon Health Alliance (MHA), which is coordinating the conference.

"Between 150 and 200 people will participate in the conference, plus 20 to 30 vendors," Baker said.

About three-quarters of the participants are also expected to bring their families to the area, she said.

"We scheduled it from Sunday through Tuesday hoping the participants might come up early and visit around the area and shop before the conference starts. Most of the motels are already filled by our people," Baker said.

Baker said MHA has been working with the conference sponsors, the Rural Health Office of the University of

Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health (MEZCOPH) and the Arizona Rural Health Association, Inc., since October.

"This is the first time in 32 years they have held this rural health conference in rural Arizona," Baker said.

The packed calendar of programs begins at 4:30 p.m., Sunday, July 17, and concludes around 3 p.m., Tuesday, July 19 at Payson High School.

"We really hope area residents come to the programs we have open to the public," she said.

All Sunday's events are open: The Future of Health Care in Rural Arizona: A Payson Case Study, 4:30 p.m.; Rural Health Works: Mobilizing Local Citizens and Leaders for Health Care Planning, 7 p.m. A reception at 6 p.m. and a program entitled: A Community Approach to Recruitment and Retention, at 6:15 p.m. Monday, will also be open to the public.

Tuesday, three concurrent workshops are also open, with two opportunities to attend, one at 1:30 p.m. and another at 2:45 p.m. The workshops cover the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act; Medical Flip-Flops in the Media and What Can You Believe; and Healthy Aging.

Rural Health Works: Mobilizing Local Citizens and Leaders for health Care Planning will be presented by Cheryl F. St. Clair, assistant extension specialist, Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, and Lynda Bergsma, director of MEZCOPH.

The purpose of the Rural Health Works Program is to expand public awareness about the economic impact of the health care sector in rural communities and stress the importance of a quality health care sector in maintaining viable, strong rural community development.

Armed with this knowledge, local decision-makers can become proactive and involved in planning and supporting their local health care system.

Developed in Oklahoma, the program has been successfully utilized in many states, providing information to support strong, visionary leadership in rural communities and resulting in healthier communities and economies.

Using examples of rural communities where this program has been implemented, this presentation will cover how the program works, resources needed and technical assistance available in Arizona.

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