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Fall 2020 Policy Consortium

Rural Health Care: Challenges and Opportunities in Addressing Health Care Inequities

Rural Health Care: Challenges and Opportunities in Addressing Health Care Inequities

November 17, 2020

In 2019, over half of Mississippi’s rural hospitals were in serious danger of closing. These hospitals, and similar institutions across the country, provide critical  care to their populations, but they are seriously underfunded, especially in states that have turned down extended Medicaid coverage.

This is just one of the problems that people living in rural areas confront when they try to access health care. Many are uninsured or underinsured. There are few primary care physicians and even fewer specialists, so it is common for patients to travel for hours to see a doctor. Covid-19 has deepened these problems, putting extraordinary stress on hospitals, providers and communities.

Resilience, Hope and Change in Rural Communities: A Panel Discussion

Alma McCormick, Chad Proulx and Freddie White-Johnson joined Chris Wilson for a discussion of the issues they face in their communities in working to improve health care. They talk about the importance of being an authentic member of their communities and the need to focus on programs and projects that are sustainable and bring actual change to people. They also discuss the importance of having a structure and research base to optimize the impact of their work.

Partners in Care: Respect Dignity and Compassion: A Panel Discussion

Michael Fratkin, MD, Tammy Taylor, DNP, FNP-BC, and patient advocates Judith Surber and Jeannette Johnson spoke with Ashley Freeman about the importance of good communications, understanding and partnerships between patients and physicians in bringing good health care to people in rural areas. They talked about the challenges that other factors, including lack of insurance coverage, substance abuse and poverty and physical distance present to ensure that their patients get high quality care. 

Data Spotlight: Rural Patients Served by PAF, Recent Survey Highlights

Katherine Gallagher, MPH, presented PAF’s most recent data on the experiences of the rural health patients we serve. Here are some key findings.

Agents of Change in Rural Health Care

Our docuseries, Agents of Change in Rural Health Care, premiered at Policy Consortium. You can watch the entire series here. During the series, we honored three individuals, in disparate areas of the United States, who are working within their communities as agents of change. 


Alma McCormick is a member of the Crow Nation, living in Montana. Years ago, after losing her baby daughter to a rare cancer she vowed to do what she could to make sure other people didn’t suffer as she had. She works with Crow people to raise awareness of cancer and improve access to health care. In the Covid era, she has taken a leading role in bringing awareness and promoting public health for her community. 


Chad Proulx lives in northern New Hampshire. He is a dietician who works closely with his community to teach people what it means to eat healthy food, how affordable healthy eating can be and how to cook these good foods for themselves. Chad can be found as Mr. Carrot in local schools, doing cooking classes and working with individuals eat better. 


Freddie White-Johnson grew up in rural Mississippi and still lives there. At age 17, she promised her father who was dying of cancer that she would get an education and “help the people,” and she has done that all her life. She founded the Fannie Lou Hamer Foundation to raise awareness of cancer and is working to fund and build a much needed cancer center for her community. 


Watch Alma, Chad and Freddie’s stories through our rural health initiative.