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Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Skin Cancer Awareness Month, observed each May, is a crucial campaign aimed at educating the public about the dangers of skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the United States. This month-long initiative is spearheaded by organizations such as the American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation. It emphasizes the importance of early detection and prevention, providing valuable information on how to recognize the signs of skin cancer and the steps one can take to protect their skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The campaign highlights that skin cancer, though highly prevalent, is also one of the most preventable and treatable cancers when detected early.

Understanding the types of skin cancer is a key component of Skin Cancer Awareness Month. The three primary types are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common and less aggressive, but melanoma, though less common, is far more dangerous and can be deadly if not caught early. Public education during this month focuses on recognizing the symptoms of these cancers, such as new growths, changes in existing moles, or any skin changes that persist and do not heal. Early detection through regular skin examinations can significantly improve the prognosis for individuals with skin cancer.

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National Women's Health Week

National Women's Health Week, observed annually in May, serves as a crucial reminder of the significance of women's well-being. It's a dedicated time for women of all ages to prioritize their health by scheduling check-ups, screenings, and engaging in healthy habits. This initiative aims to empower women to take control of their health, encouraging them to make informed decisions about their bodies and lifestyles.

The importance of National Women's Health Week lies in its emphasis on prevention and early detection of health issues specific to women. From reproductive health to heart disease and mental health, women face unique challenges that require tailored care. By promoting regular health screenings and encouraging healthy behaviors, this week-long event plays a pivotal role in reducing the prevalence of preventable diseases and improving overall health outcomes for women.

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Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month, observed throughout May, serves as a crucial platform to educate, raise awareness, and reduce stigma surrounding mental health issues. It offers an opportunity for individuals, communities, and organizations to come together to promote understanding and support for those struggling with mental health challenges.

One of the primary goals of Mental Health Awareness Month is to destigmatize mental health conditions and encourage open conversations about mental well-being. By shedding light on the prevalence of mental illness and emphasizing that it is a natural part of the human experience, the month seeks to empower individuals to seek help without fear of judgment or discrimination. Through advocacy efforts and sharing personal stories, people are encouraged to recognize the importance of prioritizing mental health care and seeking support when needed.

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2024 Middle Tennessee Regional Event

Tuesday, April 23rd, we had the opportunity to host our last regional event of the season at Fall Creek Falls State Park and see our middle region members. Members had the opportunity to hear from professionals on topics including MAT in Emergency Department Settings, current drug trends, social drivers of health, and more!

The presentation topics and speakers can be found below:

  • Addressing Social Drivers of Health findhelp This presentation discusses why addressing social drivers of health and why understanding social determinants are essential for creating equitable health systems and fostering healthier communities overall. Access full presentation here.
  • Naloxone Training Suzanne Angel, ROPS Join us to learn from the Middle Regional Overdose Prevention Specialist about administering naloxone and further prevention efforts. Access full presentation here.
  • MAT in Emergency Department Settings Kayla Mehr, TDMHSAS Join us as we talk with Kayla Mehr about MAT in the Emergency Department Settings. Access to full presentation can be found here.
  • Suicide Prevention Melissa Alardo, TDH Join us as we talk about suicide prevention and its correlation to SUD. Access full presentation here
  • TDH & RHA Programs and Updates Join us as we go over current program updates with not only the Rural Health Association but the Tennessee Department of Health. Access full presentation here.

Healthy Smiles Student Loan Repayment Program

The Healthy Smiles Student Loan Repayment Program provides educational loan repayment to qualified dentists, hygienists, and dental assistants in exchange for a service obligation to practice full-time at dental clinics located in medically underserved areas. 

  • Dentists receive up to $300,000 for a 3-year service obligation
  • Hygienists receive up to $50,000 for a 2-year service obligation
  • Dental assistants receive up to $20,000 for a 2-year service obligation

 Practitioner Eligibility Requirements: 

  • Must be a United States citizen or permanent resident. 
  • Must be licensed to practice in Tennessee (dentists/hygienists). 
  • Must agree to use the Tennessee Dental Repayment Incentive Program funds only to repay qualifying educational loans. 
  • Must have no obligation for health professional services and have not breached a health professional contract. 
  • Must agree to pay damages for breach of service. 
  • Must not have a judgment lien against his/her property for a debt to the United States, any federal debt written off as non-collectible, or any federal service or payment obligation waived. 
  • Must be willing to commit to a service agreement contract for a minimum of three (3) years for dentists, and two (2) years for hygienists and assistants. 
  • Must provide services in a rural or medically underserved area of Tennessee.
  • Must work full-time. 
For the Application and more information, click here.

2024 Spring Regional Events

Regional events are an opportunity to learn more about our RCORP program. Register for your region to hear more about substance use disorder, mental health, and Rural Health Association program updates. Lunch will be provided to in-person attendees. 

Cost: Free for members | $25 for non-members; a networking lunch will be included.

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Public Health Awareness Month


Public Health Awareness Month holds particular significance for rural areas, where access to healthcare services and health education can be limited. In rural communities, residents often face unique challenges such as geographic isolation, limited healthcare infrastructure, and socioeconomic disparities, which can contribute to poorer health outcomes. Public Health Awareness Month provides a crucial opportunity to address these disparities by raising awareness about prevalent health issues and promoting access to healthcare resources in rural areas.

One of the key benefits of Public Health Awareness Month in rural areas is its role in increasing health literacy and empowering residents to make informed decisions about their health. By providing information about preventive measures, early detection of diseases, and healthy lifestyle choices, public health initiatives during this month can help rural residents take proactive steps to improve their well-being. This education is especially vital in rural areas where healthcare providers may be scarce, and individuals may have limited access to medical expertise.


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TDH Measels Alert

The Tennessee Department of Health is issuing an urgent alert regarding a recent surge in measles cases, both domestically and globally, necessitating heightened awareness and proactive measures. Regrettably, many instances of measles infections have gone undetected within healthcare and community settings, resulting in prolonged exposure periods and sustained disease transmission. It is imperative for clinicians to promptly identify suspected cases of measles, institute isolation protocols swiftly, and notify public health authorities by reporting any suspected cases to the Tennessee Department of Health at 615-741-7247.

Moreover, the Tennessee Department of Health offers measles testing services, available upon prior consultation and approval from the Vaccine Preventable Diseases team. Attached resources include the Tennessee Health Alert Network (TNHAN) measles notification, Project Firstline AAP's Think Measles Info Sheet, and the recent CDC Health Advisory on measles. TNHAN Members are reminded to keep their contact profile information updated to ensure effective communication channels. This collaborative effort aims to curb the spread of measles and safeguard public health within Tennessee and beyond. An Archive of TNHAN notifications sent to licensed medical professionals can be found, here.

RHA-RCORP Program is Offering Funding for Trainings for Rural Organizations

The Rural Health Association is offering funding for paraprofessional trainings benefiting mental and behavioral health for HRSA defined rural organizations. If your business is interested in training someone in your community or a staff member, please reach out to our RCORP director Jessica Rackley at [email protected]Below you can find a list of trainings eligible for funding:

Substance Use Disorder Treatment Training: Training for healthcare providers on evidence-based practices for treating substance use disorders (SUDs), including opioid addiction. This can include medication-assisted treatment (MAT) training, counseling, and support services.

Mental Health First Aid Instructor training: Courses that teach individuals how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders in their community.

Cultural Competency Training: Training for healthcare providers on how to effectively address and treat the unique needs of diverse rural populations, including understanding cultural differences, stigma, and barriers to accessing care.

Integrated Care Models Training: Training on models that integrate primary care with mental health and substance use disorder services, aiming to provide a holistic approach to patient care.

Stipends for Peer Support Specialist Certification: Training for individuals with lived experience of SUDs to become certified peer support specialists, offering guidance and support to others undergoing treatment and recovery.

Prevention Strategies Training: Training on implementing community-based strategies to prevent substance misuse and addiction, including education on the risks of opioid use and strategies to reduce prescription drug misuse.

Stigma Reduction Training: Programs aimed at reducing the stigma associated with mental health and substance use disorders, encouraging individuals to seek help and support.

Leadership and Program Development Training: training on program development, management, and sustainability.

World Doula Week

World Doula Week holds significant importance in raising awareness about the invaluable role of doulas in maternal and infant healthcare. Doulas, often referred to as birth companions or birth coaches, provide physical, emotional, and informational support to mothers before, during, and after childbirth. This week-long observance serves as a platform to highlight the vital contributions doulas make in promoting positive birth experiences, reducing medical interventions, and supporting the overall well-being of mothers and babies worldwide.

In rural areas, the need for doulas becomes even more pronounced due to various challenges faced by expectant mothers and their families. Limited access to healthcare facilities, including hospitals and obstetric care, is a prevalent issue in many rural communities. Doulas play a crucial role in bridging this gap by offering continuous support during labor and delivery, especially when medical resources are scarce or distant. Their presence can help alleviate anxieties, provide comfort measures, and advocate for the mother's preferences, ensuring a safer and more empowering birth experience.

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2024 East Tennessee Regional Event

Our 2024 Spring Regional events are in swing! Tuesday, March 19th, we had the opportunity to host our regional event at East Tennessee University and see our east region members. Members had the opportunity to hear from professionals on topics including substance use and behavioral disorders in rural communities, current drug trends, and more. 

The presentation can be found below:

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March RHC Lunch and Learn

Please join us for our next Lunch and Learn Session on Wednesday, March 27 at 12pm CST/1pm EST where we will introduce a new RHC benchmarking program supported by the Rural Health Association of Tennessee/RHC Network. This is now available to all network members at no cost. We hope this program not only provides you with valuable data about your RHCs but also helps to demonstrate the impact the network will have in the upcoming years.

Please join for a review of the web-based system and a discussion of next steps for how to access the tools and interpretation support. For more information about the program click here. To access this event email Christin McWhorter, RHC Network Director, at [email protected]

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Department of Health Releases 2024-2026 Health Plan

The 2024-2026 State Health Plan seeks to provide a pathway for achieving the Department’s vision: Healthy People, Healthy Communities, Healthy Tennessee.

Through evaluating data and engaging partners and the public to create recommendations across the four sections of the State Health Plan Framework (1. A Healthy Start; 2. A Healthy Life; 3. A Healthy Environment; 4. A Healthy System of Care), the Plan outlines how Tennesseans can work together to improve the health status of Tennesseans.

Download the Health Plan

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, observed annually in March, serves as a crucial reminder of the importance of understanding and preventing colorectal cancer, which is one of the most common cancers worldwide. This month-long campaign aims to raise awareness about colorectal cancer risk factors, symptoms, screening options, and preventive measures. Through education and advocacy efforts, individuals are encouraged to take proactive steps to reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer and to promote early detection through regular screenings.

Preventive measures play a pivotal role in reducing the incidence and mortality rates associated with colorectal cancer. One of the most effective preventive measures is maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while limiting the consumption of red and processed meats. Regular physical activity also plays a significant role in reducing the risk of colorectal cancer, as it helps maintain a healthy weight and improves overall health.

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Nutrition Awareness Month

In the United States, food security remains a pressing issue, with millions of individuals and families facing challenges in accessing affordable and nutritious food. Rural areas, in particular, often bear the brunt of food insecurity due to limited access to grocery stores, fewer transportation options, and lower incomes compared to urban counterparts. These challenges are exacerbated by factors such as geographic isolation, limited employment opportunities, and reliance on agriculture, which can be susceptible to fluctuations in crop yields and market prices.

The impact of food insecurity in rural areas is profound, affecting not only physical health but also economic development and overall community well-being. Families may struggle to afford or access nutritious foods, leading to higher rates of diet-related illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Moreover, children in food-insecure households are at risk of developmental delays and academic struggles, perpetuating cycles of poverty and inequality.

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Beneficiary and Family Centered Care - Lunch and Learn

Join us February 28th, 2024 at 12:00 PM CST, for our monthly Rural Health Clinic lunch and learn webinar. This month's guest will be Kia Weaver, Outreach Specialist, with Kepro. 

Kepro is the Beneficiary and Family Centered Care Quality Improvement Organization (BFCC-QIO) for the 29 states. Beneficiaries and families can call Kepro to talk about healthcare-related questions such as whether they are ready for discharge from a hospital, rehabilitation facility, home health agency, or hospice.

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American Heart Month: Wear Red Day

February is recognized as American Heart Month, a dedicated period to raise awareness about heart health and encourage individuals to adopt heart-healthy lifestyles. Cardiovascular diseases remain a leading cause of death globally, and American Heart Month serves as an important opportunity to educate the public about the risk factors associated with heart disease and the preventive measures that can be taken. During this month, various organizations, healthcare professionals, and communities come together to promote heart health through events, campaigns, and educational initiatives.

One notable event within American Heart Month is "Wear Red Day," celebrated on the first Friday of February. This day is specifically aimed at raising awareness about heart disease in women. Heart disease is often mistakenly considered a predominantly male issue, but it affects women at alarming rates. Wear Red Day encourages people to wear red clothing to show their support for heart health and to spark conversations about the importance of preventing heart disease in both men and women. The American Heart Association (AHA) is a key supporter of Wear Red Day, providing resources and information to help individuals understand the risks and take steps towards a heart-healthy lifestyle.

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National Cancer Prevention Month

National Cancer Prevention Month, observed every February, is a crucial awareness initiative that underscores the significance of proactive measures in reducing the risk of cancer. This month serves as a platform to educate individuals about lifestyle choices, early detection, and regular screenings that can contribute to preventing various types of cancer. By promoting healthy behaviors such as maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption, individuals can significantly lower their risk of developing cancer.

Maintaining one's health is paramount in the fight against cancer. Adopting a nutritious diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provides essential vitamins and antioxidants that bolster the body's immune system and help combat the development of cancerous cells. Regular physical activity not only aids in weight management but also contributes to overall well-being, reducing the risk of certain cancers. Additionally, steering clear of tobacco products and moderating alcohol intake are crucial steps in cancer prevention, as these substances are known to be major contributors to various types of cancer.

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National Maternal Health Day: Maternal Health in Rural Areas

Maternal health is a critical aspect of overall well-being, and its significance is particularly pronounced in rural communities. In these areas, access to quality healthcare resources is often limited, posing unique challenges for pregnant women and new mothers. The lack of easily accessible healthcare facilities, skilled professionals, and educational programs can lead to delayed or inadequate prenatal care, increasing the risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Addressing maternal health in rural communities is essential for ensuring the health and survival of both mothers and their newborns.

One of the primary reasons maternal health is crucial in rural areas is the vulnerability of pregnant women to complications. Limited access to prenatal care can result in undetected health issues, contributing to a higher incidence of maternal mortality and morbidity. Moreover, the physical distance to healthcare facilities may hinder timely emergency interventions, making it imperative to prioritize maternal health initiatives that bring services closer to rural communities. By improving access to prenatal care and skilled birth attendants, the likelihood of preventing and managing complications increases, positively impacting maternal and infant outcomes.

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What is a Maternity Care Desert?

Maternity care deserts pose a significant challenge to rural Tennesseans, where access to comprehensive maternal healthcare services is often limited. In these areas, the shortage of obstetricians, gynecologists, and maternity care facilities creates what are essentially maternity care deserts. Pregnant individuals in rural Tennessee face increased difficulties in finding accessible and timely prenatal care, essential for monitoring the health of both mother and baby throughout pregnancy. The absence of nearby obstetric care providers in these deserts contributes to delayed or inadequate medical attention, leading to potential complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

The impact of maternity care deserts on rural Tennesseans is evident in the higher rates of maternal and infant mortality, as well as adverse birth outcomes. Limited access to proper maternal healthcare services exacerbates existing health disparities, disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations in these regions. Women in rural areas may encounter difficulties in securing transportation to distant healthcare facilities, further hindering their ability to access timely and necessary prenatal care. As a result, the health outcomes for both mothers and infants in rural Tennessee can suffer, underscoring the urgent need for targeted interventions to address these disparities.

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