Utah Center for Rural Health Awarded Health Equity Grant

Published: October 08, 2021 | Read Time: 3 minutes

Center for Rural Health at SUUThe Utah Center for Rural Health (UCRH) at Southern Utah University has been awarded a grant from the State of Utah’s Office of Primary Care and Rural Health to address Health Equity in a Post-Covid Landscape. The grant of $150,000 will focus on building capacity within rural communities to address and mitigate health inequities exacerbated by COVID-19, and link communities and individuals to social resources to meet their needs. The program will serve all 24 counties in the state of Utah that are designated rural or frontier.

This grant will create a rural Project Echo (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) hub to be based at the center. Currently, the University of Utah is the home of the state’s ECHO, but having a rural hub will allow for more regional-focused training to be delivered. This form of case-based learning has shown to improve patient health outcomes and provider confidence.

“The ECHO Act expands critical access to patients in rural and underserved areas,” said Terry Box, M.D., director of Utah’s Project ECHO. “Telehealth-based programs like Project ECHO increase our capacity to provide high-quality care in the right place at the right time to the right people, in a way that keeps costs down for both the patient and the health system.”

Developing a Rural Health Equity Series will springboard the efforts of the Utah Center for Rural Health to help meet the diverse needs of the unique populations who live and work in rural and frontier Utah.

“UCRH is the gold standard for coordinating and implementing effective collaborations to improve health outcomes in rural Utah,” said Dr. Matt McCullough, Ph.D., director of Telehealth Services at the Utah Education and Telehealth Network. “They have the connections and relationships to effectively work with government, health care, private and public stakeholders to make real change possible. The Utah Education and Telehealth Network (UETN) strongly supports the intent of the UCRH to establish a Project ECHO hub to identify and resolve health inequities in rural Utah.”

The grant will also help UCRH to provide and coordinate social resources to priority populations. The grant Principal Investigator, Kasey DeLynn Shakespear, MHA, MPH and MA, has been working in these areas with several other grants.

“Through this project we will be able to create a database that will be freely available at www.rhau.org and will list current information about community medical, behavioral, and social support resources in each of the 24 rural and frontier counties in Utah,” said Shakespear. “This database along with our Project ECHO series are coming in direct response to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on certain populations in the state. We hope to better empower our communities to serve all of their members effectively.”

This grant and project represent the latest effort by the state of Utah to work toward overcoming the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and grow from the experience. In the One Utah Roadmap, Governor Spencer J. Cox stated that “No matter how dark the storm there is always the promise of a beautiful sunrise ahead and of our shared belief in good things to come.”

The mission of the Utah Center for Rural Health is to promote and enhance the quality of rural health through leadership, advocacy, coalition building, education, and to affect policy and legislation. Learn more about the Center at www.suu.edu/ruralhealth.

Tags: Center for Rural Health SPARC

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