Introduction to the National Center for Rural Health Works
The National Center for Rural Health Works (RHW) is funded from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (ORHP) through a Cooperative Agreement with the National Rural Health Association (NRHA). RHW began in 1998 as an initiative to expand public awareness of the economic importance of health services and to stress health care’s critical role in rural development. RHW has provided information to support local decision-makers in rural communities to become proactive and intricately involved in planning and supporting their local health systems. The ultimate objective has been to maintain local health care services, including critical access hospitals, to result in healthier rural communities and economies.
Why your state should use the National Center for Rural Health Works?
Communities realize health care is critical to the physical and mental well being of its citizens; however, health care is also critical to the economic well being of the community. If local health care should disappear, as much as 20 percent of the local economy would go with it.
Rural communities now see their health care systems under fire. Rural hospitals are closing. Health care services are being cut. Physicians will not come to the rural areas, and if physicians do come to rural areas, they usually won’t stay. Medicare and Medicaid payments are too low and have recently been cut.
Rural residents can revitalize their local health care systems. RHW provides the tools. Local visionary leadership puts these tools to work. State-trained teams act as facilitators to the local leadership. The center assists communities to keep their health care dollars and services at home.
What is the National Center for Rural Health Works (RHW)?
The purpose of RHW is to provide a process by which community residents can evaluate their health system. The process leads to increased use and expansion of health services and ensures the existence of health services. RHW engages community residents in local health care decision-making by showing them the importance of the health care sector to their local economy. The hard facts are illustrated with locally specific numbers and are the key to obtaining local participation.
The Goals of the National Center for Rural Health Works
- Be the focal point for analysis of the economic impact of selected health policies on rural America.
- Develop tools that clients (states, counties, local communities, hospitals, etc.) can use to measure the economic impact of health care services.
- Continue to update and improve the community health needs assessment toolkit.
- Develop tools that decision-makers can use to assess the need for new or expanded rural health care services in a community.
- Develop health service profitability tools that decision-makers can use to assess the need for new or expanded health care services, as well as provide estimated costs and revenues, breakeven analysis, and possible funding sources.
- Provide training and technical assistance to help clients understand and use these tools and templates.
- Promote findings, experiences, toolkits, and templates to both health and economic development audiences.
New Directions for the National Center for Rural Health Works
From 1999-2004 RHW was primarily involved with training state level professionals in the model to measure the economic impact of health services on a local economy. In addition, information was also provided on the community health assessment model and analysis of rural health needs to enhance the provision of health services in rural areas. The primary mode of delivery was conducting state train-the-trainer workshops. Forty-four states have been trained in RHW; over thirty states have already started utilizing RHW tools to save their rural health care.
Since workshops were completed in most states, the focus of RHW changed in 2004. The directional change was from providing state train-the-trainer workshops to providing two regional workshops each year and in development of at least two additional tools each year in our areas of focus: Economic Impact, Community Health Needs Assessment, Rural Health Needs Analysis, or Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems Development.
Rural Health Works became The National Center for Rural Health Works and continues to provide technical assistance and new tools and templates to those previously trained and to continue to publish and present new tools and templates to traditional health audiences and non-traditional rural development audiences.