I would like to take this time to introduce myself. My name is Espaniola Bowen, MCJA, M.Ed., and I am currently Manager/Director of the Office of Primary Care and Rural Health Development, Recruitment and Retention Area in the State Department of Health. I have worked in public health for more than 18 years: first as a health facilities consultant, then as a health planning coordinator for the Office of Primary Care and Rural Health Development, then as the Director for the Office of Primary Care and Rural Health Development. I know first-hand the challenges and issues of rural health care and the importance of having accessible primary health care in rural areas.
My goals are for the Rural Health Association of Oklahoma to do its best to help keep rural providers informed of new issues in the forefront; to help them access resources and information to deal with current issues and concerns, and to do what we can in a collaborative effort to make Oklahoma a healthier state. There is a lot of uncertainty in the future of healthcare. Given the physician workforce shortage, and access to care issues, we have to find ways to ensure the availability of providers for the rural areas and assist in the recruitment effort for the rural areas.
I would agree with our past President, Mrs. Joan Walters, that we also need to find ways to make individuals become more accountable for their own health. Billions of dollars are expended each year on diseases and conditions that could be prevented through improved diet, activity, smoking cessation, and other factors. Oklahoma is 46th in the national for Health care outcomes, this is unacceptable and we must make our business to eliminate the health disparities in our state.
Give the current climate of health care, this will not be an easy or quick task. But I feel this can best be done through collaboration with (public and private – large and small), communities, cities, organizations, and getting personally involved. Working together on the same issues, toward the same goals, will strengthen to our efforts.
We continue to hold quarterly rural health roundtable discussions and reach out to the four corners of the state to gather information about what topics are important to the rural citizens of Oklahoma. If you have not been involved in our conferences, or our quarterly roundtables, we urge you to contact us and let us know what your concerns and needs are. The mission of RHAO, “Serving as a united voice for Oklahomans in the promotion of rural health issues, through advocacy, education, and leadership” continues to guide the Board. Thank you and I look forward to working with all of you these next two years.
Espaniola Bowen, MCJA, M.Ed.
Rural Health Association of Oklahoma