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Kansas Rural Health Work's

Community Engagement Program

The Kansas Rural Health Works program, funded by the FLEX grant, strives to help rural Kansas communities evaluate and analyze their health care systems and to appreciate how valuable a viable, sustainable health care system is to their community. The program began in 2004 by generating an economic analysis of the health care system for 97 rural counties in Kansas. Hospital administrators in each county received a copy of their county’s report, and they were allowed to use these reports for presentations to their communities, their hospital boards, or wherever needed. Along with a copy of the report, the Office of Local Government (OLG) provided a compact disc which contained an electronic version of the report, a sample news release about the report, a five-page summary handout which they could distribute at presentations and a PowerPoint presentation complete with talking points. The published reports and CDs were replicated in 2006.

Using the impact reports as a springboard, Kansas Rural Health Works began to provide direct technical assistance to rural communities through a program called Community Engagement. This program, designed to help rural communities strengthen their local health care system, consists of a series of meetings with a group of the community’s leaders and interested citizens during a six to eight month period. During this period, the community group, facilitated by OLG, works on four products which capture the health care situation in that community. The first report details the economic impact of the health care sector in that community (samples of which appear below). The second product, the Health Care Services Directory, contains contact information for local health care service providers, community services, and state and national contact information for a variety of programs and help lines. This is usually the most popular product, and it provides an opportunity for citizens to discover a locally available service of which they were not previously aware. The third product, entitled Data and Information, details demographic trends, income and economic distress indicators, behavioral and health information and other information about the community. The fourth product is a survey of the community, designed to discover citizen’s health service use patterns as well as gauge their perceptions of the health care system. Then, the community group examines the results from all four products and discusses what they have learned. From this assessment, they decide what issues need to be addressed, and they choose priorities and form strategies to address those prioritized needs. OLG makes itself available for follow-up assistance if requested.

The first communities to participate in the Community Engagement program, Sherman County and Republic County, completed the program in June 2005. In Republic County, the survey revealed that community members had little awareness of locally available services such as elder abuse, domestic violence and substance abuse. The community group implemented a media awareness campaign for each of those programs, and the hospital works with the community newspaper on a weekly highlight of available services and programs. The county’s economic development director has used information from the survey and the economic impact report when working with prospective businesses. In Sherman County, the hospital administrator has used the information from each of the products in several presentations, and the hospital itself is using the information for strategic planning purposes. Additional information about the Kansas Rural Health Works program, along with copies of the information resources generated to date, is available at the KRHW website.