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Winter 2005-06

Shirley McClain attends Minority Health Conference

Healthcare Issues Report - Rural Advocates Needed
by Shirley McClain

Minority Health Conference On January 9th, 2006 I attended the Office of Minority Health "National Summit on Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities" in Washington DC. There were 2,000 attendees. I was proud to represent RDLN. I had never seen so many MDs, MPHs, JDs., MBAs, and RNs in any one place. I quickly noticed that there were not many folk like me present. Ethnic diversity was there; but I saw something I would call classicism.

During the Obesity Institute, for example, the panelists gave the results of their research, but no one gave information on program implementation. I praised them for their wonderful research work, but I also asked them about the disconnect. I asked how low-income women participate other than completing a survey. Responses to my question consumed the remaining time left in the Institute -- 30 minutes.

The experts recognize the need for participation from the community. At one plenary, Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith MD, Associate Dean for Faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health, spoke of the importance of having community voices represented in the formation of healthcare policy. At another, the speaker asked the community representatives present to stand up, and only a handful came to their feet.

Lack of funds for participation in such conferences is one barrier to more effective participation by grassroots people.

RDLN Healthcare Initiative

RDLN is working with four poor rural communities to test the idea that community-based health initiatives have a better chance of preventing and controlling diseases related to weight, such as diabetes in such communities than do programs based in mainstream healthcare institutions which need to figure out how to reach out to the community and cross cultural divides.

RDLN has submitted a proposal to Heath Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and HHS' "Healthy Behaviors in Women" for a pilot project in four counties with active members of the RDLN Network: Baker County, Georgia (Southwest Georgia Project, Shirley Sherrod); Mora County, NM (Helping Hands/Mujeres Unidas, Anita LaRan); Pickens County, Alabama (Cole Evangelistic Ministries, Michelle Cole), and Taos County, NM (Taos County Economic Development Corp., Pati Martinson and Terrie Bad Hand);

The RDLN project emphasizes peer support and enjoyment rather than self-denial. There will be voluntary health screenings, educational sessions, shopping expeditions, cooking lessons and potlucks. A multicultural Rural Women's Cookbook for Health is a likely byproduct. Group walks and/or other moderate exercise will also be scheduled.

An Advisory Board is in formation. Dr. Annie King, Food Science Professor at UC Davis, Sarah Kovner, former aide to Donna Shalala at HHS, and Twila Martin-Kekahbah, member, Advisory Committee office of Minority Health, HHS have agreed to serve.


In the areas where the above project takes place, RDLN plans separate citizen/ congressional hearings for community people, officials, and members of the healthcare community to explore current healthcare status, resources, equity of access and related issues. Here is an announcement for the first.

RDLN sponsors

Blackbelt Hearings on Health Care in Alabama

St. James Hotel -1200 Water Avenue, Selma, Alabama
Friday March 17, 2006 10:00 am. - 2:00 pm

For more information call: 205-799-0253 or toll free: 877-261-3716

The event is organized by Southwest Alabama Rural and Minority Women (Billie Jean Young and Glenda Williams). The Drama Project and HealthcareNow! are cosponsors.

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