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Population Science and Policy to offer Rx for State Rural Health

Published Date:

The Department of Population Science and Policy (PSP), in collaboration with University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, SIU Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, SIU Medicine Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development and the Illinois Department of Public Health, convened a summit of 50 influential stakeholders across various sectors such as government, health care, public health, philanthropy and academia to share perspectives on the state of rural health in Illinois. The summit’s activities were designed to spark conversation on major challenges and successful initiatives happening in the state’s rural regions to allow PSP to begin building a blueprint to improve the health of rural Illinois through sustainable, innovative programs and policies.

From the summit came a report titled “The State of Rural Health in Illinois: Great Challenges and a Path Forward,” which found that rural Illinois residents face significant challenges and health disparities compared to residents in the state’s metropolitan areas. The report identifies rural issues such as physician shortages, opioid use, childhood disparities, an aging population, obesity, housing and the rural economy as major issues contributing to suboptimal rural health outcomes. That report drew national attention and has paved the way for sweeping policy recommendations to sustainably improve rural health in Illinois. The SIU PSP team spent hundreds of hours on research and discussions with experts and rural residents to develop 24 specific recommendations in eight categories to improve health in rural Illinois.

“The fact that our work received such significant attention shows the national narrative shifting to focus on rural health,” said Sameer Vohra, MD, JD, Department of Population Science and Policy Chair. “Healthier rural areas can contribute to a stronger country – and we’re proud to help make Illinois the case study for rural health improvements.”

The Department of Population Science and Policy and its Rural Health Summit partners are currently finalizing recommendations and preparing to publicly release the recommendations throughout Illinois in 2020.

“The public rollout of these recommendations is the culmination of years of work,” said Vohra. “But it also represents the start of a new phase, where we work with Illinois legislators and communities to support policy changes that will give rural residents a bright, healthy future.”

► Learn more about these recommendations to improve rural health in Illinois

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