November 16, 2011

Missouri Celebrates First National Rural Health Day

National Rural Health Day is November 17

Communities across Missouri are leading efforts to address the unique health care needs of Missouri's rural citizens. From walking trails to cholesterol checks to flu vaccine clinics, communities are taking action in helping rural Missourians of all ages become healthier.

This effort is part of the first National Rural Health Day to be celebrated November 17. Communities throughout the state will be taking part in a nation-wide effort to increase awareness of rural health-related issues and highlight the values of living and working in rural communities.

Approximately 62 million people - one in five Americans - live in rural areas. In Missouri, 2.22 million citizens - 37 percent of the population - reside in rural areas, and nearly 90 percent of Missouri's land mass is considered rural. Primary care services are delivered in rural Missouri through a network of 68 rural hospitals, 365 certified rural health clinics and nearly 180 federally qualified community-based health care delivery sites.

"National Rural Health Day presents an opportunity to stress the importance of primary care to rural Missourians," said Margaret Donnelly, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. "Accessibility and availability of primary health care services including medical dental, behavioral and nutrition are vital to Missouri's rural health delivery system."

The health care needs of rural populations and communities are constantly evolving and are often affected by accessibility issues, fewer healthcare providers, aging populations and growing numbers of un- and underinsured citizens.

"Health care needs cannot be addressed in a 'one size fits all' approach," said Donnelly. "Because no two communities are alike, policies and programs must be flexible to allow a community to address and identify the health care needs of its residents."

For more information, visit the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services' Office of Primary Care and Rural Health website at