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OSDH to pilot new community healthcare model in McCurtain County

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

OSDH will leverage community resources, local community health workers to create healthcare framework for at-risk community members

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) plans to pilot a new approach to rural healthcare in McCurtain County, Oklahoma, that leverages statewide partnerships to connect local community members to health services. With this new model, OSDH seeks to improve the healthcare framework for the ~1.33 million Oklahomans who live in rural counties across the state.

“When Oklahomans work together, we can accomplish anything. Oklahoma’s rural health strategy, modeled after a national framework, leverages public and private partnerships across the state to empower the local community and provide a myriad of health services to those needing access,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Lance Frye. “Our hope is that this effort will serve as a framework for rural healthcare delivery that is adaptable across our state, and the rural counties of other states throughout the U.S. experiencing similar challenges. As always — but particularly now, during the COVID-19 pandemic — it’s vital that we make sure we’re meeting the healthcare needs of Oklahomans who live in rural counties and ultimately, improving the quality of life and health outcomes of those communities.”

People living in rural communities are more likely than their urban counterparts to experience preventable death from five leading causes, according to the CDC. These include heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke. Maternal and infant mortality rates are also higher in rural areas.

To address these trends in McCurtain County, OSDH, in partnership with stakeholders across the community will:

  • Strengthen capacity to deliver virtual health options via telemedicine and improved communications infrastructure through development of a technology consortium and pursuit of grants to improve broadband connectivity for rural Oklahomans.
  • Collaborate with the Front Porch initiative to coordinate and deliver services to address the five leading causes of death in Oklahoma by leveraging public and private partnerships and connecting individuals with the correct health and social services needed.
  • Deploy Community Health Workers in collaboration with local healthcare providers, including McCurtain Memorial Hospital, Orange Clinics and Kiamichi Family Medicine, to identify members of the community at highest risk for not accessing adequate healthcare and provide access to a wide range of community and health resources
  • Leverage existing partnerships and relationships, including the Oklahoma State University – Center for Rural Health, local school districts and our many community and faith-based organizations, to foster engagement among healthcare and businesses in McCurtain County

The new county-specific model is intended to leverage the robust community resources and partners already in place to create a framework of coordinated, holistic healthcare services for McCurtain County. This approach will connect at-risk community members with access to health services to ultimately improve countywide health outcomes.

McCurtain County was chosen for the pilot because its five leading causes of death mirror those found in state and national datasets. It also leads in some other metrics — more than one-third of adults in the county are obese, one-fifth are smokers and 21% of residents are uninsured. The county is disproportionately older, and nearly 40% of the total population identifies with a minority group. Additionally, over half of the county is in a food desert.

Crucially, McCurtain County has historically struggled with lack of broadband connectivity, preventing widespread adoption of telemedicine and telehealth strategies that could bring needed healthcare services to the county. Telemedicine is critical for rural hospitals to provide communities access to a wide range of high-quality healthcare and innovative technology, particularly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.