Advocating for rural health equity

The CMU Rural Health Equity Institute is making positive change to health care access in rural areas

| Author: Kelly Belcher | Media Contact: Kelly Belcher

At the February Board of Trustees meeting Alison Arnold, Ed.D., executive director of the Rural Health Equity Institute (RHEI) gave an update on how CMU and the RHEI are helping to enact positive changes to health care access in rural and underserved areas.

RHEI works to bridge innovation and impact to improve the health and well-being of rural communities.  Efforts are centered around four core pillars; Improve Care Access, Community Partnership Outreach, Advance Rural Health Equity Data, Education and Training.  Arnold gave the Board updates on RHEI initiatives under each pillar.

Since its inception in 2023, the RHEI has built alliances with coalitions, organizations and those who have experienced marginalization to promote well-being, quality of life and improve the health status of rural residents.  They have forged strong community partnerships with academic institutions, federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) rural health districts and other regional, state and national wellness entities.  The RHEI also offers professional educational opportunities which have included trainings and materials on post-COVID public health emergency implications, mental health services in schools as well as innovative strategies for use by schools and community health service providers. 

To improve access to care and resources and advance rural health equity data, the RHEI is involved in several telehealth projects including a broadband pilot project to help rural communities compile their broadband data and build a case to receive federal funding to increase high-speed internet accessibility.  They work to provide telehealth services, equipment and associated IT to support and expand tele-mental health services in Central and Northern Michigan, collaborating with health providers, FQHCs, clinics and schools.  RHEI also partners with Preventing Suicide in Michigan Men (PRiSMM) which uses telehealth capabilities to provide a toolkit for health providers and additional resources for men struggling with mental health concerns.  PRiSMM has a goal to reduce the suicide rate for Men by 10% by the year 2025.

The foundation of the RHEI is the knowledge that to advance rural health equity with justice and for belonging – we must all work together to ensure all people living in rural areas can live their healthiest life possible – and can live a life free from discrimination; access health care and social services; reside in safe housing and neighborhoods; access reliable transportation, healthy foods, working wages that support basic needs and participate in communities that are fair to all people.

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