Rural Health Conference set for this weekend

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Institute for rural Health Research at the University of Alabama is hosting their sixth annual Rural Health Conference on April 21 and 22 beginning at 8 a.m. at the University’s Bryant Conference Center. The event will allow representatives from Gov. Bob Riley’s Black Belt Action Commission to speak on some of the issues facing Black Belt hospitals.

The theme of the conference will be “Community Partnerships: Navigating the Course for a Healthy Alabama” and will bring together individuals from many different backgrounds who share a common interest in improving the health of Alabama’s rural citizens.

Chad Nichols, of the Black Belt Action Commission said they plan to tackle a variety of topics.

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“There should be a pretty good flavor of everything the commission is charged with and what they hope to accomplish,” Nichols said. “We will try to be pretty specific with everything.”

Nichols said they are planning a presentation that will give an in depth explanation of the commission.

“We will have a power point presentation and go into detail about the commission,” Nichols said. “We have 13 subcommittees and we will be trying to give people a better idea of some of the things we are working toward.”

One of the new organizations the Commission has developed has dealt with eye care. Nichols said they are trying to do more follow-ups with children who may get a preliminary check up and then fall through the cracks.

“A lot of times there are children who will get the check up and don’t follow up on it,” Nichols said. “We are trying to find a way to follow up and work with others to get them check ups, glasses and in extreme cases eye surgery.”

Nichols said they will also look at current and possible incentive packages to help recruit new physicians to the Black Belt.

The opening keynote speaker is Dr. Francisco Sy, Chief of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, which is a division of the National Institutes of Health.

Others speaking t the event will be Congressman Artur Davis, Dr. Vanessa Northington Gamble, Director of the Tuskegee University National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care and Dr. Ed Thompson, Deputy Director for Public Health Services at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Speakers for the breakout session will be Dr. John Wheat, a University of Alabama professor of Community and Rural Medicine and Director of the University’s rural Health Scholars, Minority Rural Health Pipeline and Rural Medical Scholar programs. Wheat will be joined by Dr. Mickey Trimm, one of the vice co-chairs of Preventative Wellness and Dr. Leon Davis, the founder and CEO of the Communication Network and member of the Black Belt Action Committee. Mrs. Francis Ford, the Perry County Health Care Coordinator for the non-profit organization Sowing the Seeds of Hope, which works to improve health care services for county residents, will also be at the conference.

Many other community leaders, health care providers, researchers, policy makers, educators, social workers, mental health professionals, representatives of faith based organizations and federal, state and local government officials are expected to attend.