F. Marie Hall Institute of Rural Health
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Roadmap to Future

Wide Open Spaces

Travelling from here to there, one encounters the crossroads that are the intersections leading in one direction or another. At each crossroads, it is possible to go back, to turn to the side, or to move forward. Forward is a direction that requires being prepared for the unknown.

The future of health care in West Texas is at a crossroads.

In the last decade, tremendous advances have been made by the F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health to establish the roadmap for the rural health care for the region. The Institute has strategically expanded the infrastructure that undergirds the future of local community health. Through the integration of its research, health education and workforce development initiatives, and applications of technology to enhance access and quality, the Institute is connecting communities to each other and to new opportunities to improve health.

The Institute's roadmap for decision-making at several crossroads that will be pivotal to future include:

  • Transforming the healthcare system through implementation of technology. The process of transforming the healthcare system requires a vision of what an effective system of care looks like, but it happens one practice and one hospital at a time—each moving forward with technology innovation that is critical to sharing information and resources. This transformation has several destination points that are crucial in the journey: the use of information to empower patients in their health and wellness; to improve safety; to maximize efficiency of care utilization and cost effectiveness in ways that benefit both the individual and the community.
  • Integrating the healthcare system to best serve vulnerable populations. When care becomes integrated and healthcare resources are utilized cost effectively, the result will be healthcare delivery models that provide the appropriate kind of care in seting that is closest to home. This integration is about the best use of local resources, and management to generate the best health outcome.
  • Fostering career development to ensure an adequate healthcare workforce. It is critical to focus resources to develop an adequately skilled workforce in high-need industries to ensure the continued economic viability of the region and the state. Helping young people to connect what they are learning in high school to their career goals—not only in high-demand agriculture and energy industries, but also in health care—which provides economic stabalization to communities. And West Texas must engage their young people in career and leadership development so that the students sitting in the high school recognize the opportunities that exist in their hometown and take ownership of that future.
  • Emphasizing community participation in the discovery of new knowledge. Research that is not informed by local need and then translated for application of that new knowledge to benefit the local community has limited impact. The tenets of community-based participatory research are critical elements to developing meaningful studies that can have broad impact in the local community and beyond. Those tenets shape the roadmap for the Institute's expanding research objectives. The primary goal is to develop a progressive cohort within a community (the West Texas region) that can be studied over time to understand aging, obesity, cardiovascular health and other disease processes in the context of community environmental and system factors as well as individual factors that affect healthy living.

When communities share the determination to seek innovative ways to improve their health and well-being, they can thrive.