National Rural Health Day 2014

Today, we celebrate National Rural Health Day and the 2,200 rural hospitals dedicated to addressing the unique needs of their patients and communities.

Rural hospitals are working not just to mend bodies, but also to make patients and communities healthier. They are engaged and have demonstrated leadership through active participation in measuring and reporting on quality, assessing and addressing community health needs, pursuing and attesting to meaningful use of health information technoloogy systems and extending outreach through certified primary care medical homes. Rural hospitals provide front-line treatment for emergency patients and inpatient care. They operate the ambulance service and provide vaccinations as the local department of public health. They also play a crucial role in stabilizing patients and coordinating transfers to tertiary care facilities for patients who need a higher level of care.

The American Hospital Association has developed resources to assist hospitals in improving population health. Community Connections supports and highlights the work hospitals do every day that extends far beyond the four walls of the building, including bringing free clinics, job training, smoking-cessation classes, back-to-school immunizations, literacy programs and so many other resources, often with little fanfare, directly to the people of the community.

Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence recently published "The Second Curve of Population Health." This guide provides a framework for initiatives that hospitals and care systems could pursue to develop an institutional infrastructure that supports population health.

AHA advocates for important programs including 340B drug discount pricing, Medicare-dependent hospitals, sole community hospitals, rural referral centers, critical access hospitals, a low-volume adjustment, rural community hospital demonstration, protections for frontier states and low-cost counties, and others. These programs have proven effective in sustaining and even expanding access to residents of many rural communities and deserve our continued support.

On National Rural Health Day, we celebrate the providers who dedicate themselves to caring for the sick and to improving population health. Thank you for all you do.

John Supplitt is a senior director at the American Hospital Association.

Registration for the 28th Rural Health Care Leadership Conference, Feb. 8–11, is open. This education and networking event offers rural hospital leaders and board members an opportunity to share strategies and best practices for addressing challenges facing the field.