A New Partnership: WONCA and NRHA Together in 2019

Logan Schmaltz, NRHA Student Outreach Coordinator from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences writes on student involvement at the WONCA World  Rural health conference in Albuquerque in 2019

In mid- October the WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice (WONCA Rural) and the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) of the United States came together to host the 2019 WONCA World Rural Health Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.

Classically WONCA Rural is an organization targeted towards rural family doctors. However, with the partnership with NRHA, WONCA Rural expanded its net to reach other critical professionals that are essential to community health in rural areas around the globe. The NRHA is an organization that draws from many other professions in addition to doctors. Administrators, nurses, social workers, community health workers, and counselors all play a critical role in the health of rural communities. Many of the improvements that happen in rural towns are not often on the clinical level, but on a broader public health and community scale. By opening doors to other professions and those working at the grass roots level to gain access to crucial information and ideas about how to improve health in rural settings, a greater impact can be made in the lives of those residing there.

Students from both WONCA Rural and NRHA organizations were given an opportunity to make international connections with each other. RuralSeeds, the student led branch of WONCA Rural, hosted sessions to give students a voice and share their stories and opinions about rural health topics. Students also presented ideas about how to best engage the rural communities they love and want to spend their lives serving. They learned about an online exchange platform called Rural Café, that was initiated by students in Brazil in order to discuss health issues specific to rural health at an international level and were able to participate in a session as well at the conference. This session can be viewed at: Rural Café ABQ 2019.

Another intriguing innovation presented to students called Targeted Rural Health Education (TRHE) is a program that can be implemented anywhere in the world. The purpose is for health professionals and students to bring to light a local health issue by publishing a newspaper article at an appropriate reading level and present a way to best address it, depending on the community’s needs and values. For more on TRHE visit: Rural Round-up Targeted Rural Health Education.

WONCA World Rural Health Conference 2019 provided grounds for WONCA Rural and the NRHA to build critical relationships and strengthen potential for positively influencing rural health on an international scale. The ideas shared during the conference are invaluable and will manifest in distinct ways to suit each rural community’s values across the globe.