HealthIT is an Opportunity for Job Creation in Rural Communities

“Who else can provide healthcare in rural Mississippi besides these small rural hospitals? With so much responsibility and so few resources, they need all the help they can get,” said Jim Rice, RN, MBA, Health IT and Electronic Health Record Consultant at the Mississippi Health IT Regional Extension Center.

Mississippi WorkshopWe traveled to Mississippi recently to launch a pilot project between White House Rural Council partners from the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and Education to expand access to information and federal funding to support health information technology (HealthIT) infrastructure and workforce needs for Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) and other small rural hospitals The Mississippi pilot is part of a larger pilot initiative across five states.

Critical access and small, rural hospitals are often the foundations of their communities’ health care systems. They extend local access to care where it would not otherwise be available. Rural community hospitals also are typically the largest or second-largest employers in the community and often stand alone in their ability to offer highly skilled jobs.

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Take the HealthierUS School Challenge

We know that one of the keys to effective learning is a healthy child, and we also know that a key to a child’s health is healthy eating and exercise.  On an average school day in this country, our children consume more than half of their daily calories at school, and more than thirty-one million of these children participate in the school lunch program.

Fortunately, thanks to the leadership of First Lady Michelle Obama and programs such as the USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge, schools around the country are committing to reducing hunger, increasing nutrition, and promoting physical activity.  I know firsthand the importance of being active during the day, and I often joke that without recess and gym at school, I would have been in real trouble.

However, despite the progress we’ve made in improving student health, there is still much work to be done.  Too many schools are being forced to make do with fewer resources, and meeting the demands of the HealthierUS School Challenge can often prove difficult.  Yet with a little hard work and creativity, I believe that achieving a healthier school environment can be done.

I have visited some remarkable schools around the country where teachers and administrators are going above the call of duty to incorporate health and wellness into the daily lives of their students.  Such action not only affects nutrition and physical activity at school, but reaches beyond the classroom and lunchroom into homes and communities.

I support the First Lady’s goal of doubling the number of HealthierUS Schools by June of 2012.  The Department of Education is working closely with the USDA, HHS, the Domestic Policy Council, and the First Lady’s Office to ensure that more school children have access to healthy meals, and that our nation’s schools and districts have health on the top of their mind.

Arne Duncan

Get started on making your school a HealthierUS School.