Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
A Healthier Rural America: TTUHSC’s rural health efforts are of national importance

A Healthier Rural America: TTUHSC’s rural health efforts are of national importance

It has been my pleasure to represent Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) School of Medicine on two statewide committees. A cool side benefit from being on these committees is meeting people from other schools and agencies in the state. These include colleagues associated with Texas A and M University School of Public Health. I know Texas Tech formerly competed against Texas A and M on the football field, but even though they left the Big 12 Conference for the Southeastern Conference, I am hoping that Coach Kingsbury can work out a game at some point in the future, as he has mentioned that he hopes to do.

This is not really about football—but that is just around the corner and I am excited about the prospects for Texas Tech's season.

No, this is about a study that came out of Texas A and M called the Rural Healthy People 2020 project. The purpose of the study was to identify and address the priority health concerns of rural America. This topic is of great interest to us in West Texas with our vast geography and paucity of people.

We know that the nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population resides in rural areas and they experience many of the same health challenges as people in the cities. In fact, some characteristics actually place rural populations at greater risk for a myriad of diseases and health disorders.

What am I talking about? Well, the literature suggests that generally, the rural population is older, poorer and has less access to employer-based health insurance coverage. This is not being judgmental, and there are certainly exceptions. I mean to recognize the basic facts. When we face reality, we have a better chance of enacting meaningful change.

Some of the major health problems found in rural America in the study are access to care, nutrition and weight status, managing diabetes, mental health and mental disorders and substance abuse. We have Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) program projects on most of these and other types of programs and projects on the balance. Our pediatric nurse line improves access to expert advice, we are training mental health professionals, and we are working in preventing and controlling diabetes, to name but a few examples.

Many of us have our “roots” in the country, especially in Texas. I know I do. We are not that far removed from the farm. Furthermore, we have family and friends who live in rural America.

TTUHSC has a special mission to serve the people of West Texas and it is one that we take seriously. It is an honor to serve our rural citizens and we want to help them deal with issues and disparities related to their health.