Now Viewing: Rural Health

How Can Partnering with the Housing Sector Improve Health?

Jun 8, 2016, 11:00 AM, Posted by Pamela Russo, Rebecca Morley

Collaboration between public health and housing sectors can vastly improve the quality of life within communities across the nation.  

A row of homes are under construction.

Editor’s Note: In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act this month, we are republishing a post from 2016 highlighting the impact of housing on health equity.

The house that Robert and Celeste Bridgeford bought in Curry County, Oregon over a decade ago wasn’t just old. It was dangerous. Water damage and thin walls wracked by decades of severe storms unleashed wide swaths of mold. The damaged floors put the whole family at risk of falling, especially Robert, disabled years ago by a work injury. “We had always planned to replace the house, but... happened,” says Celeste.

The Bridgeford family—like a third of Curry County’s residents—lives in a prefab house that is manufactured in a factory and then transported to the site. About 40 percent of the prefab housing in Curry County is substandard. With little industry in the area, many families struggled to find work and couldn’t afford to fix or replace their homes.

This all started changing in 2013 when community groups, non-profits and public agencies joined to propose a pilot project for the state of Oregon. This project would, for the first time, provide low cost loans or other funds to help prefab home-owners repair or replace their homes.

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NewPublicHealth Q&A: Michael Meit Speaks on Public Health in Rural Communities

Jul 29, 2011, 5:20 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

Michael Meit, M.A., M.P.H., Program Area Director, Public Health Research Department, National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, led a session at the recent National Association of County and City Health Officials annual conference on areas under-served by local public health departments, with a focus on rural communities.

NewPublicHealth spoke with Michael Meit, who also serves as the Co-Director of the NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis, on how to address public health challenges for rural communities, including infrastructure issues, budget concerns and sheer distance between residents and services.

NewPublicHealth: How complete a picture do we have on the rural public health infrastructure?

Michael Meit: I think it’s helpful to understand the historical perspective behind the development of health departments. In rural jurisdictions, they developed about 100 years later than they did in urban jurisdictions and perhaps because of that late start many communities never fully developed and many communities were left with areas of under-service.

And when we talk about that under-service, we’re talking about fewer available dollars, fewer staff, less training, less technological capacity, and typically, a smaller array of public health services that are provided. The main data source that we have to compare rural health departments to non-rural health departments is the NACCHO National Profile of Local Health Departments [a survey of the nation’s nearly 3,000 local health departments on how they operate and what services they provide]. The report shows very clearly that rural health departments as a whole have less capacity – but it’s important to remember that the NACCHO profile looks at areas that have local health departments, while there are many communities that really don’t. The profile is the good news – the positive story about public health. But many areas that don’t have local health departments probably are doing worse than those communities in the NACCHO profile.

NPH: What are some of the key challenges that rural communities face in providing public health services?

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