• April 3, 2018

Supporting Rural Communities

This article was written by Amber Blomberg, Manager of the BCBSND Caring Foundation and Community Partnerships.

Supporting rural communities is important. I know this firsthand.

I grew up on a farm in a small rural community, population 1,302. Eight minutes to town, 20 minutes to school and 45 minutes to the nearest "big city" with a large retail store.

Like many other small towns, my hometown consisted of a church, bar, gas station, bank, café and school, among other "ma and pa" shops. However, one thing that set us apart from many other towns was that we had a hospital. As a child, I remember it was so nice not having to travel far to go to the doctor for checkups and appointments, especially the time I broke my arm in the 7th grade.

Today when I go back and visit my hometown it's sad; it's not the same. The population isn't climbing and our hospital and school have now closed, among other things. As you can imagine, it's hard to attract people, specifically young families and health professionals to an area that "doesn't have a lot going on."

This is just one example among many of what is happening to rural communities today. The linkage between healthcare and the vitality of a community is strong.

One of many things that makes me proud to be a part of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBSND) and managing their Caring Foundation is that one of the focus areas is rural health care. BCBSND Caring Foundation helps support local rural health care providers and their communities by offering rural health grants. These grants support innovative solutions to help improve the health of North Dakotans in small towns and consistently work to help improve North Dakota's health care system.

The BCBSND Caring Foundation Rural Health Grant Program provides funding for activities, supplies, programs and events that support the health and wellness of rural North Dakotans of all ages and demonstrate collaborative efforts involving rural providers and their communities. The goal is to encourage rural health care providers to be champions of healthy activity in their communities as well as show support in addressing North Dakota's escalating problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Since the rural health grant program's inception in 2001, over 90 different grants have benefitted rural North Dakota health care.

2018 – 2019 grantees include:

  • St. Andrew's Health Center, Bottineau - construct a pickleball court
  • Carrington Health Center, Carrington – playground park equipment
  • Pembina County Memorial Hospital Association, Cavalier - implement an employee wellness program
  • St. Luke's Hospital, Crosby - family 5K fun run/walk event
  • CHI St. Alexius Health Dickinson Foundation, Dickinson - host a 5K
  • Jacobson Memorial Hospital Care Center, Elgin - establish a community fitness center
  • Spirit Lake Nation, Fort Totten - special diabetes program for American Indians
  • Unity Medical Center, Grafton - implement employee wellness programming
  • St. Aloisius Medical Center, Harvey - diabetes empowerment education program
  • Central Valley Health District, Jamestown - install a frisbee golf course
  • City-County Health District, Valley City - implement a "Communities Alive" program as well as host a "Let's Walk Valley City" event promoting the new walking trails
  • City-County Health, Valley City - construct handicap accessible gravel walking paths
  • McKenzie County Healthcare Systems, Inc., Watford City - host a community health fair

BCBSND Caring Foundation partners with the Center for Rural Health at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences to provide administration of the program. To learn more about this grant program or for a complete listing past recipients click here.

For more information about the BCBSND Caring Foundation, visit ndcaring.org.