Virginia Celebrates the Power of Rural!

National Rural Health Day

The Virginia State Rural Health Plan, a joint effort of the Virginia Rural Health Association and the Virginia Department of Health, is celebrating the successes of rural health in Virginia!


The National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) is planning the first-ever National Rural Health Day celebration, scheduled for Thursday, November 17, to highlight rural communities as wonderful places to live, work, learn, and play; increase awareness of rural health-related issues; and promote the efforts of State Offices of Rural Health (SORHs) and NOSORH in addressing those issues. Check out some Virginia stories:

Cross Border Collaboration Promoting Public Health

The Mountain Empire Epidemiology Task Force is a group of public health officials (e.g., epidemiologists, public health nurses, health directors and public information officers) from local health departments in rural northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia that provides health education and outreach to the general public and medical communities. 

The group formed in 2006 in response to a regional increase in sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Regional media representatives supported the task force and affected communities by providing extensive media coverage of the group’s STI update that was released around Valentine’s Day, including writing a large newspaper article about the “Love Bug” in the Mountain Empire.

Cross border collaboration remains an effective approach in addressing regional public health issues.  For example, the Mountain Empire Epidemiology Task Force sponsors an annual “Keep Flu Out!” campaign with support from two hospital systems, a local university and the local Veterans Affairs hospital.  Each year, the largest regional media outlets for both TV and newspaper team up with the task force to help promote flu vaccination among community residents. These efforts are critical in encouraging everyone aged 6 months or older to get the flu vaccine.  Other topics addressed by the Mountain Empire Epidemiology Task Force include winter weather preparedness, rabies prevention and treatment, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) for schools, daycares and athletic programs, hepatitis C, and pertussis.

Read more about the “Keep Flu Out” educational campaign.

Lawmakers & Rural Health in Virginia

When advancing rural health policy is the task at hand, Virginia turns to Delegates Phillips & Nutter.

Virginia Delegate Clarence “Bud” Phillips is the ranking Democrat on the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee and a stalwart and tireless champion of rural health.

His successful health initiatives include reimbursement for telehealth services to sustain ongoing and future medical consultations in Virginia of particular importance in all rural areas and crafting in 2007 of a new law to create the Southwest Virginia Health Authority and the Healthy Appalachia Institute.

To Delegate Clarence “Bud” Phillips ‘rural health improvement’ is not just another one of many competing concerns; it is a proven life-long priority.

Virginia Delegate Dave Nutter has become a voice among legislators for rural Virginia. Most importantly, he serves as a member of the prestigious Virginia Joint Commission on Health Care. He has repeatedly insisted that the Joint Commission include a rural perspective and the Virginia Rural Health Plan in their decisions.

Delegate Nutter has played a role in the development of the Virginia Rural Health Plan. He has attended the past two Rural Health Summits; listening and actively participating – not just showing up as a politician wishing to be seen and heard.  Delegate Nutter also serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of Center for Rural Virginia, which has health as one of its six key elements.


Together for Veterans Support Group
The Virginia Wounded Warrior Program provides a network of community –based services designed to help veterans and their families overcome the challenges of post traumatic stress-related and traumatic brain injuries. Veterans Resource Specialist are available to provide case management and find resources for benefits, housing, employment, educational programs, rehabilitative services, and outpatient treatment.

Together for Veterans began meeting in February 2011 with four members attending.  This networking group has met twice a month “discussing important issues that affect Veterans through activities and tips to help them cope with everyday issues.”  Veterans enjoy the activities they do as a group; including family members in these activities most of the time.  This group provides an outlet for Veterans in their “community” cutting the two hour drive to the nearest Vet Center.  According to one Veteran, “The Veteran’s group helps me very much.  Enjoy the opportunity to talk with other Veterans that understand what we went through in Vietnam.  They understand how much we need to talk about it and get it out in the open…things I wouldn’t talk about before the Veteran’s group.”  Veterans enjoy “learning about benefits.”  “The Virginia Wounded Warrior Staff are very supportive with any issue we have and will get us answers and will always follow up.”  

Veterans have enjoyed planning their group meetings, growing a vegetable and flower garden, planning a family picnic, and a Veteran’s Fall Cookout to reach out to other Veterans in the community. This group has grown from four members to fourteen active members.  “It’s helping me cope. I enjoy the comraderie of the other vets.”

Together for Veterans meets the second and fourth Tuesday of every month from noon – 2:00 p.m. at Cumberland Mountain Community Services Board located in Cedar Bluff, Virginia.  This group is open to Veterans of any era.   For more information, please visit the or call the Virginia Wounded Warrior Veterans Resource Specialist at 276-964-6702.


Rural Partnership Supports Healthy Start Program

Times are harder than ever in rural America, and those with fewer resources are struggling.  Programs that serve them are struggling too.  The big question is “how do we do more with less?”  In rural Virginia, the Healthy Start/Loving Steps Program is using its partnership with a local church to meet these challenges       

Virginia’s Westmoreland County Healthy Start/Loving Steps Program strives to address the issues of infant mortality and low weight births.  Scenic Westmoreland County is in the State’s Northern Neck, which borders the Chesapeake Bay.  This rural area faces many challenges in the current economic environment with few jobs, lack of transportation, and, for pregnant women – no place to deliver a baby in their 10-county health district.  The program team serves at-risk pregnant women throughout their pregnancies and until their babies are two years old.  Clients, who are white, black or Hispanic, receive care coordination services, help in linking to other community programs, transport to medical appointments, medical nutrition therapy and home-based education on a variety of health and parenting topics.

Over a decade ago staff realized that their clients were experiencing many problems beyond the scope of the program’s resources.  The most basic needs were food and diapers.  In the fall of 1999 Healthy Start Nutritionist Christine Fournier approached her church, St. Paul’s Catholic Mission, to ask if the parishioners would consider helping establish a food pantry.  The “asking” was complicated by the added request that they actually do any shopping for Healthy Start because the health district, as an element of the Virginia Department of Health, could not accept monetary donations.  The “yes” that came back to us has meant so much to so many clients over the years.  St. Paul’s Catholic Mission and the St. Francis de Sales Parish Knights of Columbus have supported our clients through gifts of food, baby supplies, clothing, blankets, breastfeeding slings, a Christmas Angel Tree, and much, much more.  Their giving adapts to emerging client needs.  When staff reported that some clients couldn’t afford gas to get to medical appointments on their own, the Knights of Columbus donated gas cards.  On another occasion a hard-working single mother lost her job because her car broke down and she had no way to get to work.  Several St. Paul’s volunteers had the car towed to a garage and paid for the repairs, enabling this mother to get her job back and provide for her family.  At other times clients have emergency needs because of family situations or serious health problems.  The “safety net” from St. Paul’s and the Knights of Columbus has truly made a positive difference in the lives of those who have the least.    

On November 4th the Ladies of St. Paul’s and Knights of Columbus again renewed their support to Healthy Start clients.  In December we will have our annual Christmas Program where each Healthy Start client will receive specific gifts for their children made possible by the church’s Angel Tree.  The Christmas Program is filled with laughter and chaos as children run around and adults share stories.  We hope to see Father John O’Donoghue there with his quiet smile, and other church members who champion our program like Mary Berry and Julia Shryock.  We appreciate John Golden, John Cali, and many others who have helped over the years.  They are like family now.  We look forward to a new year of helping give Westmoreland babies a healthy start…together!