Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Adventures in Rural Health Care: The Assessment

I was fortunate to be raised in a rural Montana community that had a full-service hospital, but my family was more holistically minded. Colds received liquids and sleep, nausea prompted cups of sarsaparilla tea, and unless something was broken or gaping, all wounds were managed at home. Vaporizers, no sugar-based foods, and lots of play time OUTSIDE were the norms at home. My mother raised two boys and three girls in this fashion and we were rarely sick save for the mandatory two weeks out for chicken pox.

I wish I could have continued this approach in my grown-up life. I have since set up household in that hometown community with my husband and our part-time kids. Thanks to health insurance, I visit my provider for routine check-ups, but little else. Sugar, ever absent in my childhood, is readily used for baked goods and coffee and hidden in so many innocent things like crackers. Outdoor play has been replaced by committee meetings, anaerobic and often sedentary work activity, and housekeeping.

At thirty-something, I began to look at overall quality of life as well as my desire to bear children. I got some blood work and measurements to begin a baseline evaluation. "Sure", I thought, "I'm a little out of shape and a bit overweight, but probably not at risk for anything serious." Turns out I'm more than NOT IN SHAPE, I exhibit risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Heavy sigh.

The good news is that I'm not alone. Many rural women are in the same boat. The even better news is that some sharp providers in our community have received a year-long grant to assist individuals, men and women, in reducing our risk factors for the above-named diseases. They will do this through assessing our current conditions and then helping us change pieces of our lifestyle through exercise, education, and coaching.

I'll learn later this week whether I've made it "in" to the group. I hope so.

It's a new commitment and I'm sure we'll learn a lot and be challenged in new ways, but it's a good challenge with implications for a healthier, more productive life. I'm excited and nervous, but I'd like to share the journey and the things I learn.

Will you join me?

For more information on the unique challenges of rural women, read here:

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