Experts discussed rural health topics at workshop

Jeff Porter

About Jeff Porter

Jeff Porter is the director of education for AHCJ and plays a lead role in planning conferences, workshops and other training events. He also leads the organization's data collection and data instruction efforts.

Photo: Len Bruzzese/AHCJHannah Koch, Psy.D., research and technical assistance associate, Mental Health Program, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education

AHCJ’s 10th annual Rural Health Journalism Workshop brought journalists to North Carolina’s Research Triangle to hear from experts who offered resources and story ideas about the health challenges facing the United States’ 47 million rural residents.

Nearly 70 attended the all-day workshop, gaining a better understanding of what’s happening – or will be happening – in rural regions.

The workshop’s luncheon speaker was a licensed psychologist associated with the Mental Health Program of the Western Interstate commission for Higher Education, an organization with a long history of working to address behavioral health needs in rural areas. Hannah Koch, Psy.D., talked through the differences between rural and urban needs, focusing on three behavioral health challenges facing rural America: accessibility, availability and acceptability.

Accessibility challenges include payment and insurance coverage, locations and intake processes, and transportation. Rural areas also often lack availability of trained behavioral health professionals to provide services. Acceptability issues might manifest when rural and frontier residents perpetuate the stigma of mental illness or when services aren’t delivered in a culturally sensitive way.

Throughout the workshop, health care and policy experts offered resources and story ideas about the opioid epidemic, what journalists need to know to cover rural health stories, the rural health workforce, telemedicine and the struggles of rural hospitals.

AHCJ members can click here to access copies of speaker presentations.

The workshop also marked the graduation of the class in AHCJ’s Regional Health Journalism Fellowship program. The fellows – from North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Kentucky – finished a year-long training program that began in July 2017. The program will continue for 2018-19 with fellows from New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

The workshop local host was University of North Carolina Health Care. Sponsors were The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Commonwealth Fund.

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