Community members and groups came together for the Connections IN Health Regional Roadshow in Washington County on April 17, 2023 from 1pm-3pm EST. In addition to learning more about the work being done in Washington County, attendees also heard from several presenters about the unique issues of addressing health in rural areas.
First, presenter Dr Ellen Wells of Purdue University spoke on Public Health and Environmental Issues in rural areas, including key risk factors like pesticides, safety/accidents, water quality, solid waste, industrial pollution, and climate change. Limited access to medical care in addition to limited access to prevention and environmental protections can exacerbate the poor outcomes related to environmental exposure. Next, Phil Ellis, senior director of the Indiana Rural Health Association spoke further on health disparities in rural areas, including the fact that residents in rural areas are more likely to die from the 5 leading causes of death than residents in urban areas. Rural areas face more hospital closures, fewer providers, and a lack of transportation to health services. Mylan Gaston of the Indiana University Center for Rural Engagement and Katelyn Kutemeier of Purdue Extension then shared about health equity. Health equity is the state in which everyone has a fair and just opportunity to attain their highest level of health. Barrers to health equity can be structural, institutional, political, or financial in nature. Programs like the Indiana Department of Health’s Food as Medicine and the Washington County Wellness Fair can help address these barriers found in rural areas, while Purdue Extensions Nutrition Education Program (NEP) specifically collaborates with community partners to help people eat smart and move more.
You can watch the full 2023 Annual Connections IN Health Regional Roadshow in Washington County here. Slides from the event can be found here.