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Report, Webinar Focuses on Impact of COVID-19 and Rural Children’s Development

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SPRINGFIELD, IL – A new report finds that the pandemic is having an outsize impact on rural children as COVID-19 continues to complicate the systems that support rural children’s development. Children in rural communities often have limited access to healthcare, sub-par early childhood opportunities and Internet connectivity issues that complicate virtual learning. The pandemic has exacerbated those issues and the rise of the Delta variant makes children more susceptible to COVID-19 infection.

Southern Illinois University (SIU) Medicine Department of Population Science and Policy, SIU Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, The University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health and the SIU Medicine Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development have developed a set of recommendations to make immediate and long-term improvements in children’s development in rural Illinois.

The Rural Health Summit group recommends substantive actions to help rural children:

  • Build the capacity in rural Illinois to provide children with the academic, social and emotional skills necessary to be prepared for kindergarten.
  • Increase funding and technical assistance opportunities for rural schools to provide quality, affordable and comprehensive health care to children.
  • Invest research and program funds to encourage childhood service sectors to provide integrated, personalized and comprehensive services to children and families in rural communities. nities to promote healthy lifestyles.

The Rural Health Summit will host a webinar at noon on September 16 to discuss how COVID-19 has impacted rural children’s development. Register for that webinar HERE and see the schedule of upcoming webinars.

“We must do better for our state’s rural kids. Rural children have long faced significant equity issues in education, healthcare and access to necessary resources,” said Dr. Sameer Vohra, Chair, SIU Medicine Department of Population Science and Policy. “The pandemic has exacerbated those issues and is rapidly introducing new challenges with the rise of the Delta variant. These recommendations aim to incorporate immediate strategies as well as the long-term investment needed to build brighter futures for kids in rural Illinois.”

The policy recommendations are the result of discussions from rural health stakeholders, community leaders, legislators, physicians and experts from organizations throughout Illinois and build on the Rural Health Summit’s initial report, “Building a Healthier Rural Illinois: Understanding and Addressing the Challenges of COVID-19.”

The Rural Health Summit is releasing monthly topic-specific policy briefs and hosting corresponding webinars through January 2022 on topics of an aging rural population, mental health, public health systems, nutrition and fitness, children’s growth and development, workforce development, opioids, health and housing and economic development.

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