How Your Rural Community Can Prevent Lung Problems


COPD woman jogging struggle to breathe breathlessness lung problems
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Sadly, many rural residents struggle with lung problems.

COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, includes lung diseases like emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and non-reversible asthma. This condition is characterized by increasing breathlessness.

But there are ways to help rural communities prevent and manage COPD, and help people breathe easier.

That’s why the Rural Health Information Hub (RHI Hub) created a new toolkit to compile evidence-based models and resources to help rural leaders implement COPD programs in their communities.

“Each rural health program designed to treat COPD is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all implementation strategy,” according to RHI Hub’s toolkit. “Successful programs identify existing resources and best practices and tailor them to address their community’s needs.”

Why Rural Communities Struggle with COPD

The rate of COPD among the most rural residents (8.2%) was almost double that of the most urban residents in 2015 (4.7%), according to the toolkit.

This is a reality for many reasons. People in these areas tend to have higher usage of tobacco. Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of COPD. Rural populations also deal with high rates of poverty and a lack of health care access and inadequate housing and public transportation.

“Rural communities may not have the healthcare infrastructure or workforce, such as specialty pulmonary rehabilitation clinics or respiratory therapists, to offer all respiratory services.” according to the toolkit.

Additionally, respiratory health is a key issue of concern for Latinos. Environmental pollutants and work conditions put Latinos at heightened risk of developing respiratory conditions and diseases.

Who Is the Toolkit For?

RHI Hub’s toolkit was created to help rural communities proactively address COPD challenges.

copd-toolkit-breathing-lung-problemsProduced in collaboration with the NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis, the toolkit compiles evidence-based, promising models to aid rural communities in implementing COPD programs.

“Program models may focus on preventing COPD, assisting COPD patients with self-management of the disease, or both,” according to the toolkit.

What Is in the Toolkit?

The toolkit has seven modules with resources and information to help rural leaders develop, implement, evaluate, and sustain rural COPD programs.

Module 1: Introduction

  • This module provides an overview of COPD and the unique challenges of COPD prevention and management in rural settings. This module will provide important information needed before implementing a program to prevent and/or manage COPD in a rural community.

Module 2: Program Models

Module 3: Program Clearinghouse

  • Examples of promising COPD programs that have been implemented in rural communities.
  • Examples of current 330A Outreach Authority grantees and other organizations with developed promising programs designed to improve COPD in a rural community.
  • These examples include Organization, Project and Synopsis.

Module 4: Implementation

  • Important issues to consider and address when implementing a rural COPD program.
  • Successful programs identify existing resources and best practices and tailor them to address their community’s needs. This module identifies key concepts to consider when implementing a program to prevent and/or manage COPD.

Module 5: Evaluation

Module 6: Sustainability

Module 7: Dissemination

    • Ideas and resources for disseminating findings from a COPD program.
    • Through spreading of information, rural communities can learn from the experiences of others and incorporate promising strategies.

How Else Can You Improve Rural Health?

RHIhub also has a free Rural Suicide Prevention Toolkit.

Or is active play hard to come by in your rural area?

Check out this Guide to Implementing Play Streets in Rural Communities. Play Streets are place-based interventions that temporarily close a public area to create safe places for physical activity.

AmeriHealth Caritas, which is a leader in dissolving disparities that are widely overlooked in underserved communities, has four examples of policy solutions that could help address disparities gaps in rural communities

You can also get a Health Equity Report Card to see how your county is doing on critical social and economic factors to help you build the case for healthy change!


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