Medium: Rural Health Professionals Think Outside the Hospital

Medium: Rural Health Professionals Think Outside the Hospital

Could rural hospitals build on existing social services work by investing their assets to advance their communities’ health? 

By Amanda Abrams

In Wisconsin, a Cooperative for Sharing Skills and Experiences

Forty years ago, the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative (RWHC) was launched as a vehicle for sharing services among five hospitals in southwest Wisconsin. Today, the cooperative includes 43 rural hospitals from all over the state that share and gain knowledge in topics like health plan contracting, health information technology, and workforce development. The group advocates for members as well, funding a lobbyist at the state level who works on behalf of rural health care providers.

“We’re trying to get statewide economic development leaders thinking about health care, and get health care leaders thinking about economic development.”

About five years ago, RWHC staff first began examining the connection between the health of rural hospitals and the health of rural communities. “The idea is that rural hospitals can only be as economically healthy as their rural communities,” says Marie Barry, the new director of RWHC’s community economic development program, which formally launched in March this year. “We’re trying to get statewide economic development leaders thinking about health care, and get health care leaders thinking about economic development.”

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