AHA's Advocate for Rural Health Names Top Concerns

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , January 29, 2014

Emphasis on Population Health
"I would like to see a lot more emphasis on population health improvement; meaning hospitals in rural areas reaching outside of the walls, connecting with private practices, public agencies, departments of health, wherever possible to have a collective impact on the health of the populations they serve. Yes, we have to improve the quality of care in the hospitals themselves. But I am after improving the health of the population. That has always been important to me, and it will be this year too."

I asked Bengtson if he thought that the federal government, Congress, and other healthcare powerbrokers held a proper appreciation for the work of rural healthcare providers under challenging conditions.

"That varies greatly across the country. In the most rural of states like Vermont, the legislature, [and] the power brokers get it because they're in immediate contact with their constituents. Nobody runs around here anonymously doing things that are not good for the population," he says.

"But it is interesting across the country and there is a lot that I frankly don't understand. I don't know that people in powerful positions don't get it. I have to say I am not happy about the politics of healthcare when I think there is so much that can be served through the mission of healthcare. But politics and money make a difference. I am not sure that people don't get it, but I see a lot of action that would cause me to think they either don't get it or don't want to get it."

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