Facilitating Health Equality
in Rural Idaho
There’s something about the serenity of the Idaho mountains.
The calmness that comes from seeing freshly harvested fields in the fall. The feeling of knowing your neighbors and the sense of community that closeness brings. It all draws memories of another way of life.
It’s our rural way of life.
With almost 88 percent of Idaho’s land classified as rural areas, the state has long been an attractive destination for families, retirees and young professionals seeking to avoid the hustle and bustle of the urban lifestyle. As of the last census, 28 percent of Idahoans live in rural communities and that number is only expected to grow.
However, there are challenges facing some of our rural communities.
Specifically of concern to the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health is the disparity of access to quality, affordable healthcare based on the rural community of residence.
We can see this disparity played out in various health outcomes among rural communities. These include higher suicide rates for teens and adults, lower birth weights, higher prevalence of stroke and cardiovascular problems, increased death rates from preventable/curable cancers, and more.
While some communities have been able to achieve health success despite the challenges they face, the pattern is clear when it comes to Idaho’s rural health — your zip code is more important than your genetic code in determining your overall health status.
This disparity in health outcomes reveals the inherent inequality between rural and urban communities in Idaho.
Our vision is to find a way for all rural communities to have the same opportunity for success in health as urban communities.
In collaboration with respected community leaders, organizations and health advocates, the Rural Health Initiative aims to:
• Drive change by identifying the issues
• Engage multiple stakeholders and thought leaders in those areas
• Provide the necessary resources to initiate personalized, innovative and sustainable solutions for each community
• Provide thought leadership, funding and access to make those proposed solutions a reality
Our vision begins with three steps:
1. Compile health and environmental data for each community.
Because health is influenced by the physical and cultural environment, we compile a wide range of data relevant to health and the environment on a county or zip code level. We then release the findings through personalized rural community health profiles that will be shared on our website. (Look for a release this summer!) These profiles have over 220 descriptive indicators on each rural county in Idaho.
2. Build partnerships with key community organizations and leaders.
We know it takes a village to be able to make these changes, and it’s essential to create a collective impact for moving forward. That’s why we identify major stakeholders and collaborate with them.
3. Understand the needs of local communities and health systems.
We listen to local communities and those individuals directly involved in the health system. We want to understand their experiences and what they understand to be the issues. We learn where they have seen successes and where the issues still remain so we can gain the insight we need to move forward.
Our immediate next steps include:
• Post our Rural Health Initiative Strategy to clearly outline the areas of focus for the initiative.
• Facilitate forums, think tanks and discussions to bring key stakeholders together and formulate solutions or strategies.
• Provide technical assistance and/or financial support to help make those solutions happen when the collaboratives are ready.
• Continue to increase our collective strength and effect change by collaborating with grant writers, project managers, community leaders, other foundations, university partners, and community organizations.
Interested in learning more about our vision or participating in our programs?
We are always looking for community members and leaders who want to help create a healthier Idaho. If you want to join us in our mission, please contact us using the form below.