Rural health outreach is a priority for the UM System

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For the past 15 years, the MU School of Medicine, MU Sinclair School of Nursing and UMKC School of Pharmacy have worked to promote excellence in health care through interprofessional education, allowing students from each school to learn and practice collaboratively.

Rural Missourians bear much of the brunt of state health care shortages. Motor vehicle accidents are twice as deadly in rural areas compared to urban. Rural residents are more likely to die of cancer, although urban residents are diagnosed with cancer more frequently. These findings come from the most recent Missouri Office of Rural Health’s biennial report, which also concluded that 99 out of 101 of rural counties in the state do not have enough health care providers to meet their community’s needs. A study by the Missouri Hospital Association predicted that the problem is only going to get worse, and anticipates a shortage of nearly 50,000 primary care physicians by 2030.

In order to address rural and urban health care disparities, the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) and the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) have joined forces. For the past 15 years, the MU School of Medicine, MU Sinclair School of Nursing and UMKC School of

Pharmacy have worked to promote excellence in health care through interprofessional education, allowing students from each school to learn and practice collaboratively. These collaborative efforts were recognized with grants to address physician shortages and bring more health care educators to rural areas. The two grants from the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration totaled nearly $5 million and were the largest awards for rural health care in the University’s history. The larger of the two grants – $4.2 million awarded over 4 years – will be used to expand the Rural Track Pipeline Program, which teaches students the best practices for health care in rural areas. This grant will also enhance the Show-Me ECHO faculty development program. The second grant, worth nearly $750,000, will fund a new rural residency program in Sedalia for students. Students selected for this program will spend one year learning in Columbia and the next two years in Sedalia to develop health services in a more rural area.

These programs are just one aspect of the UM System’s efforts to improve health care in rural communities. MU Extension has established strong partnerships with departments across campuses to improve health in the state. For more than two decades, MU Extension and the MU School of Medicine have collaborated to implement the Continuing Medical Education and Lifelong Learning program (CME), which holds annual training conferences where rural health professionals can increase awareness of diseases and provide continuous education to the health care community.  Extension and the MU School of Medicine also created the Missouri Telehealth Network to remotely provide healthcare services to rural areas. Since 1994, the Telehealth Network has implemented start-up telemedicine programs and managed new and existing telehealth programs. Similarly, Extension has partnered with the Sinclair School of Nursing to create a Nursing Outreach program, an initiative offering high quality and affordable learning opportunities for any specialty, practice setting or location, and includes free online courses and resources for nurses.  

The UM System is committed to advancing Missouri’s success and well-being in all parts of the state. In President Mun Choi’s September 2018 State of the University address, he outlined the UM System’s new strategic initiatives. With the announcement of the Engagement and Outreach Compact, President Choi promised to develop effective programs for health outreach in local, state and global communities. These rural health outreach efforts show that the UM System has prioritized developing effective programs for health and educational outreach with Missouri communities, strengthening the connection between the state and the UM System. These health outreach efforts demonstrate the collaboration, innovative approaches and ability that the UM System has to impact rural areas, while also cultivating learning opportunities for students.

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