Farm Bureau Launches Healthy Living for a Lifetime Initiative
Rural residents all over the state are now receiving free health screenings thanks to North Carolina Farm Bureau’s Healthy Living for a Lifetime mobile health initiative.
“The greatest asset of North Carolina is its people, and good health is a basic requirement for economic viability and success,” says Larry Wooten, president of North Carolina Farm Bureau. “However, many areas in North Carolina are not receiving the professional health care they need and deserve.”
In fact, in most rural areas of the state, the medical needs greatly outweigh the number of doctors, clinics and hospitals available.
That’s why North Carolina Farm Bureau established the Healthy Living for a Lifetime initiative. Through early detection, follow-up health support and the establishment of healthy lifestyle habits, this initiative will increase long-term employability among participants. It will also help rural residents find local medical homes or ongoing health services.
“Farm Bureau has a long history of giving back to rural communities,” Wooten says. “Together, we can make a difference.”
The first stop on the 50-foot trailer’s roll through the state was Oct. 7, 2010, at the Franklin County Medical Center in Louisburg. In addition to the screenings, the event brought together many of the county’s health and health support services in one place.
A lack of doctors and other medical professionals is a common problem in rural areas, but related problems also hinder access to health care for many rural residents. Those problems can include lack of transportation, lack of knowledge about cost resources and more.
Franklin County Farm Bureau President Bennie Ray Gupton says he appreciated the contributions of so many in making the first event a success.
“The community needs this service,” Gupton says. “We feel honored to be asked to do this.”
Once visitors had gone through all the stations for screenings, they were met to go over their results and then directed toward handouts—available in English and in Spanish—on how to maintain or improve health habits.
Dot Robertson, a Farm Bureau Member, was there to represent the Council on Aging.
“We really do have a big need because many don’t have insurance or access to insurance,” Robertson says. “I’ve seen a great need in the years I’ve been here. People come in and want to know where they can get health care.”
Vainette Walker, a Hoke County Farm Bureau Member, works with the Vocational Rehab Center in Franklin. The agency plays an important role as a related health service, as it focuses on putting people back to work after an illness or injury, or retraining them for jobs in light of illness or injury.
Keeping people working also plays an important role in maintaining rural economies. Walker says issues such as chronic pain, high blood pressure and amputations due to diabetes are common conditions around which people still need to find ways to secure income.
A second event was held on Oct. 15 at the Engelhard Medical Center in Hyde County, the third event was held in Western North Carolina at the McDowell Senior Center in Marion, and other screenings took place in Davidson, Vance and Wake counties.
But it was the event in McDowell County that attracted the attention of at least one state legislator.
“As far as state government goes, we’re constantly concerned with cost of the state health care plan because it costs so much to keep solvent,” says Rep. Mitch Gillespie. “Everything we can do to make people more aware of healthy living styles saves money for all of us.”
McDowell County Farm Bureau President James Nations says the event is a good example of what the organization represents.
Nations adds McDowell County, like many rural counties across the state, is faced with the fact that 20 percent or 9,000 of its residents don’t have any health care insurance.
The goal of the new health care initiative is to offer 25 free health screening events per year to the rural residents of North Carolina. The screenings include blood pressure, body mass index, bone density measurements, cholesterol, glucose and a specialty screening room for more advanced tests.
“Rural America comprises approximately 25 percent of the nation’s population, yet it experiences higher poverty rates, fewer doctors and poorer health,” says Adam Tesh, program director of Healthy Living for a Lifetime. “Access to quality health care is often a major issue facing rural communities, and a lack of funding and other economic challenges means too many North Carolinians go without contact with medical professionals and the health care delivery system.”
Currently, more than 18 percent of North Carolinians are uninsured and the number is rising. Compared to their urban counterparts, the state’s rural residents have less access to quality health care, higher poverty rates, fewer new jobs and a lack of critical knowledge of health prevention and wellness. That’s why North Carolina Farm Bureau’s Healthy Living for a Lifetime initiative is vital to the state.
“Healthy Living for a Lifetime is an innovative approach to addressing the immediate health care needs of rural North Carolinians while fostering awareness of healthy lifestyle choices that will result in long-term health improvements among vulnerable populations,” Tesh says.
Currently, the initiative has received financial commitments from the Golden LEAF Foundation and the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center.
Potential additional partnership opportunities are being pursued through organizations like the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, Health and Wellness Trust Fund, Duke Endowment, corporate giving and other avenues.
The initiative is also seeking partnerships with the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, Healthy Carolinians, Eat Smart Move More NC and others.
Follow the Healthy Living for a Lifetime program at www.healthylivingforalifetime.com.