This is a guest post by Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association and member of the National Rural Assembly Steering Committee. This is a part of an ongoing series on the topic of civic courage, which is the theme of the National Rural Assembly 2018 convening.
Rural America is a great place to work, live, and thrive. And rural America is a great place to be a leader. As such, the 2018 Rural Assembly banner “Building Civic Courage” is a perfect topic for these challenging times.
In the health sector, rural communities across the United States are serving as innovation hubs, designing and implementing new systems of care, and new delivery models. But the real opportunity and challenge is to change the culture of health in the communities themselves. Simply stated, “How do we empower rural communities to take control of their health and healthcare?”
This means providing leadership at a local level to create programs that help inform and support community health: The creation of support groups, exercise parks, community farmers markets, and health screenings to name a few. New rural leaders must emerge who can harness local rural assets, and change the fundamental culture of health from a rural perspective.
Civic courage means understanding what is meaningful to your community, communicating in the language of the community, and recognizing and incorporating cultural buffers (such as cultural identity, spiritual coping and traditional health practices, to help residents thrive and live healthy lives.)
In this critically important time, rural America needs fearless leaders, who understand that the health of the population is vital to the health of the community itself. The 2018 Assembly is a catalyst for action, and the start of an important public dialog.