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Project Report

Rural health roundtables: a strategy for collaborative engagement in and between rural communities

Submitted: 5 August 2008
Revised: 6 November 2008
Published: 18 November 2008

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Author(s) : Pennel CL, Carpender SK, Quiram BJ.

Citation: Pennel CL, Carpender SK, Quiram BJ.  Rural health roundtables: a strategy for collaborative engagement in and between rural communities . Rural and Remote Health 8: 1054. (Online) 2008. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au

ABSTRACT

Introduction:  The lack of formal public health infrastructure and trained health professionals in rural areas has a deleterious impact on rural populations for various health issues. The purpose of this article is to: (1) suggest a strategy regularly used by the authors that encourages relationship building and serves as a catalyst for rural communities to work together to initiate and make changes based on the local assets and dynamics; (2) provide a descriptive overview of this strategy; and (3) provide an illustrative case, using the Rural Ready Communities project, in which this strategy has been used.
Methods:  The Rural Health Roundtable strategy includes identifying relevant topics and stakeholders; using specific methods to ensure stakeholder attendance; creating an informal, social environment where participants feel comfortable sharing; utilizing targeted questions to engage participants and empower local ownership; and following up with the participants through communication and evaluation.
Results:  The Rural Health Roundtable strategy can result in short-term, intermediate and long-term outcomes using various evaluation tools and methods.
Conclusions:  The Rural Health Roundtable strategy has demonstrated its value as an effective tool in working with rural communities. With fewer human and financial resources at their disposal, this strategy can aid rural communities in identifying and utilizing their unique strengths to overcome resource deficits when responding to public health emergencies and natural disasters. Initiated in 1999, the methodology has been refined and enhanced over the past 8 years to more effectively reach stakeholders, ensure attendance and participation, promote sharing and discussions, build stakeholder networks and encourage continued communication and collaboration. The Rural Health Roundtable strategy has significant potential for replication and application to all areas of rural public health.

Key words:  capacity building, community networks, emergency planning, public health system, USA.

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