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Kentucky joins nationwide observance of National Rural Health Day

Since 1990, the UK CERH, which serves as the federally designated Kentucky Office of Rural Healthy, has made strides in improving access to education by bringing degrees close to home and securing funding for health care worker loan relief programs.

HAZARD, Ky. (Nov. 16, 2023) — The University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health (CERH) and the Kentucky Office of Rural Health (KORH) are proud to join communities across Kentucky and the nation in celebration of National Rural Health Day on Nov. 16, 2023. The National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health spearheads the event, held on the third Thursday of November each year, and Gov. Andy Beshear has also proclaimed this day as Kentucky Rural Health Day. 

Rural-focused organizations throughout the state and nation are celebrating the “Power of Rural” and honoring the individuals and organizations dedicated to addressing the unique health care needs of more than two million Kentuckians living in rural areas and nearly 61 million people living in rural areas across the U.S. 

"In Kentucky, over two million people live in rural and more than 100 Kentucky counties are designated as rural,” said UK CERH Director Fran Feltner, D.N.P. “It is vital that we ensure all rural Kentuckians have the opportunity to be healthy and have access to affordable, quality health care.”

KORH Director Matt Coleman echoed Feltner’s sentiments, emphasizing the mission for both the center and the KORH is to improve access to care and health outcomes for Kentuckians living in rural.

“Having a nationally and statewide recognized day to focus on rural health is extremely important to not only highlight the work being done across the state, but also to give an opportunity to stakeholders and providers to find out what’s going on in their communities,” said Coleman.

“KORH was established by the federal government in 1991 as a way to help support the health and well-being of Kentuckians in rural. We do this a number of ways by providing a framework that links small, rural communities with resources while working toward long-term solutions to rural health issues,” Coleman added.

Since its inception, the KORH has been able to assist clinicians, administrators, and consumers in finding ways to improve access to and quality of health care in the state through programs like the Rural Hospital Flexibility Program, the Kentucky State Loan Repayment Program, the Kentucky EMS Leadership Academy and many more, while ensuring that funding agencies and policymakers are made aware of the needs of rural communities.

Since 1990, the UK CERH, which serves as the federally designated KORH, has made strides in improving access to education by bringing degrees close to home and securing funding for health care worker loan relief programs. More than 1,000 students have graduated in recent years from rural programs offered at the UK CERH, with the majority working in rural settings.  

However, UK CERH Data Analyst Sydney Howard explained that rural health workforce studies conducted at the UK CERH highlight the continued need for rural health workers, including physicians, nurses, dentists, medical laboratory scientists, social workers, community health workers and more.  

“We have been fortunate to see rural-based health care training opportunities expand in Kentucky in recent years, which is critically important given that more than 30 rural Kentucky counties are currently facing health professions shortages,” said Howard. “Rural Kentucky is also home to 29 Critical Access Hospitals and nearly 400 Rural Health Clinics, all of which are key in reaching rural populations across the Commonwealth,” said Howard. 

“We are optimistic that Kentucky’s future will be bright with the continued dedication and investment of people and resources to address the needs of rural communities,” said Feltner.

“UK CERH is proud to recognize the incredible rural health workers, researchers, teachers, students, volunteers and many others in our community on National Rural Health Day and throughout the year,” Feltner added.

UK CERH and KORH created a special rural health day video to highlight the dedicated individuals and important work going on across Kentucky. Watch the video here.

Additional information about National Rural Health Day, including resources and tools, can be found at Learn more about the UK CERH and KORH here.

About the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health

The University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health was established by state legislation in 1990 to address health disparities in rural Kentucky and the unique challenges faced by its communities. The mission was and still is today to improve the health and well-being of rural Kentuckians. For more than three decades, the center has partnered with communities, providers, students and individuals to provide health professions education, health policy research, health care service and community engagement toward reaching this mission.

About the Kentucky Office of Rural Health

The Kentucky Office of Rural Health (KORH), established in 1991, is a federal-state partnership authorized by federal legislation. The UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health, located in Hazard, serves as the federally-designated Kentucky Office of Rural Health. KORH works directly with clinicians, clinic and hospital administrators, policymakers and other stakeholders to improve the accessibility of health care services for the Commonwealth’s rural and underserved residents. The office connects communities and health care organizations to local, state and federal resources while working toward long-term solutions to financial, quality improvement and workforce challenges.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.