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Rural Health Summit: COVID-19 and Public Health Systems

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SPRINGFIELD, IL – The future of rural public health requires investment in data systems and public health workforce as well as enhanced partnerships between health care providers and public health departments according to a new policy brief released by Rural Health Summit organizers, 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. Rural public health systems faced an avalanche as COVID-19 laid bare major cracks in public health defenses and required Illinois to innovate and create programs and policies to keep communities safe and facilitate unique partnerships rarely considered before the pandemic.

The Rural Health Summit group recommends substantive actions to improve public health systems in rural Illinois:

  • Expand and invest in the rural public health workforce by enhancing opportunities for education and professional growth.
  • Modernize rural public health data systems by investing in the technology and training to allow rural communities to have timely, reliable and actionable information.
  • Incentivize partnerships between health care providers and public health departments that result in collective impact and avoid duplication of resources and services.

The Rural Health Summit will host a webinar at noon on July 15 to discuss how COVID-19 has impacted rural public health systems and showcase recent innovations in public health. Register for that webinar HERE and see the schedule of upcoming webinars.

“COVID-19 placed unprecedented stress on public health systems. Despite unprecedented challenges, these public health workers continued to innovate and served on the front lines against COVID-19. Public health departments and the entities that contribute to the delivery of public health services deserve our accolades – and, now, they deserve to be rebuilt appropriately,” said SIU Medicine Department of Population Science and Policy Chair Dr. Sameer Vohra. “These recommendations serve as a starting point to address the major issues facing rural public health systems in 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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