Strong Rural Communities Initiative Overview
The purpose of the Strong Rural Communities Initiative (SRCI) is to improve health indicators for selected rural communities in Wisconsin and significantly accelerate establishing collaboration for prevention as the norm, not the exception, in rural Wisconsin.
Funding for the Strong Rural Communities Initiative is provided by the Wisconsin Partnership Fund, School of Medicine and Public Health.
For the vision of a Healthiest Wisconsin 2010 to become reality, a redesign of health priorities and policies within a framework consisting of collaboration and preventive health practices in non-metropolitan/rural Wisconsin is needed. In Wisconsin County Health Rankings 2004, a report by the Population Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (UWSMPH), a striking comparison between urban and rural counties emerged. 32% of non-metropolitan/rural counties were in the bottom or worst quartile for Health Outcomes, compared to 12% of metropolitan/urban counties. This is a significant number when one considers the lives influenced by a 20 percentage point variance in health outcomes from urban to rural populations. An even more striking comparison is 56% of metropolitan/urban counties are in the top or best quartile when just 9% of non-metropolitan/rural counties are in this category; a drastic 47 percentage point decrease in health outcomes from urban to rural populations.
In order for many rural communities to thrive, resources on all levels are required to match exceptional health and human services needs. SRCI has the potential to transform our health care system by empowering local community coalitions to deliver creative, evidence-based models of prevention, rather than relying on more expensive and often unavailable primary or even secondary care.
SRCI is a subcommittee of the Rural Health Development Council and is staffed by the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health. The RHDC is charged with advising the Department of Commerce on rural health and community development issues. The development of SRCI through this council is significant. It is an innovative, sustainable, transformational project which joins together six rural communities chosen through an extensive RFP review process to partner with the RHDC, two Wisconsin medical schools which already benefit from greater collegiality and partnership via this collaboration, and CHSRA, a nationally recognized professional evaluation team. SRCI brings together community sectors that traditionally have not worked closely together such as county health departments, hospitals, businesses, medical schools, and rural practitioners. Participants are learning from one another on every level to create a statewide framework for effective community-academic partnerships and it has the potential to transform the health system in the state while improving the health of 1.7 million rural Wisconsin residents.