National Rural Health Association

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The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) is a national nonprofit membership organization with more than 18,000 members. The association’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of rural Americans and to provide leadership on rural health issues through advocacy, communications, education, research and leadership. The NRHA membership is made up of a diverse collection of individuals and organizations, all of whom share the common bond of an interest in rural health.

Rural Health Care Defined

The NRHA strongly recommends that definitions of rural be specific to the purposes of the programs in which they are used and that these are referred to as programmatic designations and not as definitions. Programs targeting rural communities, rural providers, and rural residents do so for particular reasons, and those reasons should be the guidance for selecting the criteria for a programmatic designation (from among various criteria and existing definitions, each with its own statistical validity). This will ensure that a designation is appropriate for a specific program while limiting the possibilities that other unrelated programs adopt a definition, which is not created to fit that program.

Rural Health Advocacy

The NRHA's government affairs office in Alexandria, Virginia, advocates the Association’s legislative and regulatory policies and positions before the Congress, federal agencies and the White House. The Association serves as one of the primary rural resources to elected officials, policy leaders, and other organizations on issues related to federally sponsored rural health initiatives and programs.

Through activities such as the annual Rural Health Policy Institute, and ongoing grassroots campaigns and activities NRHA volunteer members actively participate in advocacy efforts to bring about appropriate rural health policy and legislation.

The NRHA’s legislative and regulatory agenda is developed through solicited input from the full membership. New policies are first adopted through the Policy Board, and then the agenda is approved each year by the Government Affairs Committee. The agenda ultimately reflects the mission and values of the organization.

Tools for Rural Health Advocates

State Rural Health Associations

State Rural Health Associations are nonprofit, nonpartisan, member driven, grassroots organizations affiliated with the NRHA. State Rural Health Associations promote issues important to rural communities at the local and state levels and are an integral part of the grassroots advocacy efforts of the NRHA. A current list of State Rural Health Associations and their websites can be accessed here.

The NRHA administers a program, funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, to provide technical assistance for members working to establish State Rural Health Associations and help strengthen those already in place. Some issues addressed by technical assistance efforts include strategic planning, definition of mission, appropriate staffing, Board of Trustee composition, development of a new rural health association, fund raising, membership growth, and review of bylaws. More detailed information regarding technical assistance for State Rural Health Associations can be accessed here.

Rural Health Education

The NRHA frequently sponsors events and networking opportunities keep individuals current with the latest information, advances, and resources in rural health. Annual events include:

  • Annual Conference - One of the largest rural health events in the nation, this conference features nationally known speakers, continuing education credits, exhibit program, and maximum opportunities for networking.
  • Rural Health Policy Institute - The Policy Institute provides participants with direct access to members of Congress, key public health officials, and nationally known health care experts. Participants hear first-hand about new federal policies and the impact on rural communities. This conference provides an opportunity to directly participate in the American policy-making process.
  • Rural Minority and Multicultural Health Conference - One of the only meetings in the nation to focus on rural minority and multicultural health issues, this event offers attendees the opportunity to meet with peers and experts who share unique concerns and interests. This conference is designed to benefit those who are dedicated to bringing quality health care and health care services to this under served and often under-represented portion of the rural population. The sessions showcase new ways to look at promising traditional health practices and customs in rural minority and multicultural communities so they can be replicated in other practices.
  • Critical Access Hospital Conference - This conference is especially designed for Critical Access Hospital professionals and representatives. Conference agendas normally include pending legislative and regulatory changes, reimbursement issues, impact of replacement facilities, safety, quality, information technology, and current issues in Critical Access Hospital care.
  • Rural Health Clinic Conference - This conference provides those affiliated with Rural Health Clinics a venue for keeping current on the latest legislation, regulations and emerging issues impacting the Rural Health Clinic program. The conference allows Rural Health Clinic representatives an opportunity to hear the most recent information on specific certification requirements and network with others working and operating similar settings.
  • Quality Conference - Building on the NRHA Quality Initiative of promoting access to coordinated, high quality care in every rural community, the Quality Conference aims to provide individuals working within the rural quality arena a chance to hear from leading experts in the field. Conference attendees are given tools to assist with the quality movement through related sessions and networking opportunities. The conference also provides information and success stories from peers implementing the quality improvement initiatives within rural communities.
  • Clinical Conference - The first of its kind, the National Rural Health Clinical Conference was launched in July 2006. The basic premise of this conference along with those to follow in the ensuing years is to provide learning and networking opportunities for the health professions workforce practicing in the unique environment of frontier and rural community medicine. The knowledge and clinical information shared is geared toward empowering attendees to work more effectively within the evolving health care environment.
  • Rural Medical Educators Annual Conference - The conference serves as the anchoring event of each year’s activity for the Rural Medical Educators Group, which works to advance the training of physicians for rural practice through network development and advocacy. The annual conference mirrors this commitment through dynamic agendas, which provide updated information, opportunities, successes, and issue areas of local and national efforts in rural medical education and residency training programs.

Need-to-Know Rural Health Links

Suggested Rural Health Readings

  • The Journal of Rural Health - A quarterly journal published by the NRHA, offers original research encompassing evaluations of model and demonstration projects to improve rural health, statistical comparisons of rural and urban differences, and mathematical models examining the use of health care services by rural residents.
  • Rural Roads - The NRHA's highly acclaimed quarterly magazine focuses on human-interest stories and successful rural programs that keep rural America healthy.
  • Rural Clinician Quarterly - The focus of the NRHA's RCQ is on patient and/or clinician education that pertains to the selected quarterly newsletter topic.
  • Telehealth Technical Assistance Manual - A document to assist in the planning of telehealth and telemedicine projects for rural community and migrant health centers and other health care organizations. By Samuel G. Burgess, Ph.D. October 2006
  • Rural Minority Health Resource Book - This comprehensive 270-page manual discusses various aspects of diversity. In addition, in-depth discussion of various minorities demographic trends, socio-economic status, health status, patterns of accessing health care, recruitment and retention and education of health professionals, and cultural and linguistic characteristics is included, as is becoming culturally and linguistically competent at the personal and organizational levels and ongoing research in the area.
  • Integrating Primary Care and Mental Health Services: Current Practices in Rural Areas - This publication recognizes various circumstances, opportunities and needs that have given rise to differing practices used to integrate primary care and mental health services. Mental health care providers in rural areas face obstacles such as the need to seek appropriate funding and reimbursement, the need to offer alcohol and substance abuse programs, problems of reaching people in remote areas, and the concern among rural residents about being identified as a patient receiving mental health services.

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