A note from the Rural Center: Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust has made a remarkable commitment to rural health care and we are great believers in their approach. Here are a few of their takeaways.
The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust has been funding rural community health improvement work across the state of North Carolina since 2011. Approximately 85 percent of the Trust’s Health Care Division funding is focused on rural North Carolina, which amounts to nearly $20 million in rural grant making annually.
These are a few of our lessons learned to do successful rural health improvement work:
- Commit to rural. Don’t just make a few grants in rural areas—make a long-term commitment to rural communities and then stick with it to see what makes a difference. Build trust within the community so they know you plan to work with them for years to come.
- Hire staff members who are from rural communities or have strong experience working at organizations that focus on rural areas.
- Working closely with government and elected officials is much more important in rural areas than in urban areas. Also, be on the lookout for state and federal opportunities that often bypass rural communities.
- Leverage non-health partners to work on health improvement issues to ensure the future vitality of the area. Remind people that health is more than health care—help people in the community, especially people outside of the health care sector, understand why they have a role to play and how it can benefit them long-term.
- Work across counties when possible but understand the differences between rural areas as well.
- Acknowledge that the people who live in the rural community are the experts. Listen to their ideas, their concerns and their thoughts on solutions.
- Don’t simply drop an urban evidence-based practice into a rural community. Do figure out how a successful evidence-based practice can be adapted for successful rural implementation.
- Find a group of other rural funders. Because many health funders focus on urban interventions, it’s useful to find a group of rural-focused health funders to share successes and challenges and discuss what you’re learning.
The Trust’s greatest example of long-term health improvement work in rural communities is Healthy Places NC, a $100 million initiative to improve health in 10 to 12 rural North Carolina counties. Read more about the Trust’s Healthy Places NC work and the impact it’s having on rural residents in the recent report “The Beginning of Change.”
Allen Smart is the interim president/vice president of programs, for the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.