Sept. 13 forum in Somerset will explore how rural communities can get healthier and get better care at lower cost

“In an era of tight budgets and strained resources, Kentucky and its rural communities can no longer afford ‘business as usual’ in the delivery of health care services,” write Susan Zepeda and Amy Watts of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. “As health care costs increase and health status declines, the question becomes: How can we ensure rural Kentuckians get better health care at lower costs?”

Zepeda, the foundation’s president, and Watts, is senior program officer, see “promising opportunities” for rural communities to reshape health care, such as working with local health departments and civic leaders to “create communities that support healthy behaviors” and better integrate the health system, with special attention for the chronically ill.

These and other issues and ideas for rural health are on the agenda of the foundation’s ninth annual Howard L. Bost Memorial Health Policy Forum, to be held Tuesday, Sept. 13 at the Center for Rural Development in Somerset. The forum will include state and national leaders. “Rather than wait for solutions from Washington, forum speakers will share strategies Kentucky’s civic leaders can put into place at the local, state and regional levels. Many will share ways that Kentucky is already doing this,” Zepeda and Watts write in an op-ed article distributed to Kentucky newspapers.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Len Nichols, who founded and directed Health CEOs for Health Reform, a group that helped policymakers see that reform of health insurance and health-care can be reformed together. Dr. Kavita Patel, a physician and former RAND Corp. researcher now at the Brookings Institution, will bring insights on how to achieve better care and better health at lower costs. Other experts from Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina will share “practical policy strategies for positive health change in these challenging times,” and smaller sessions will allow participants to engage with the speakers, Zepeda and Watts write, saying the forum’s goal is to “provide accessible, safe and effective health care to nearly half of Kentucky’s citizens who call rural Kentucky home.” More information is available on the foundation’s website,
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