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Outreach Strategies to Help Your Organization Reach Uninsured Families Living in Rural Communities

August 30, 2018

Children in rural communities are disproportionately uninsured compared to their counterparts in urban and suburban locations across the country, and for those who have coverage in rural communities, they are more likely to rely on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

With nearly 60 million individuals currently living in rural areas, it’s more important than ever to engage with these communities.

By working closely with local organizations, small businesses, and health providers, your organization can help eligible families gain access to coverage.

The Connecting Kids to Coverage National Campaign’s recent webinar explored ways organizations can reach eligible families where they work, play, and pray and enroll children in Medicaid and CHIP.  We also shared best practices and proven tips to make rural health outreach and enrollment efforts a success.

Campaign in Action

The CMS Office of Minority Health (OMH) works with local and federal partners to eliminate health disparities while improving the health of all minority populations through its health equity initiatives. Studies show that minority populations in rural areas tend to be younger and are less likely to report being in good health than their non-Hispanic white counterparts.

Together with OMH, the Consortium for Medicaid & Children’s Health Operations launched a rural health strategy to improve access and quality of care specifically for rural Americans. By leveraging local and community partnerships, the Consortium empowers patients in rural communities to make independent decisions about their healthcare.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) is focused on increasing the nation’s investment in health and science to advance health equity and improve the health of all people. OASH has 10 regional health offices across the nation that are managed by 10 different regional administrators. OASH’s experience working within Region X, a large territory that covers Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska, proved to be a helpful lesson in how strong community partnerships can work for any organization. With limited resources and a staff stationed in Seattle, the regional office formed partnerships with state and local health departments, various health systems, and community-based organizations to successfully connect families across all states in the region to health coverage.

While partner relationships are very important, it is also essential to form meaningful relationships directly with families. The Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest (NARA) has provided physical and mental health services, including dental clinics, wellness health centers, and drug and alcohol treatment programs, to American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIs/ANs) in rural communities since 1970. NARA specializes in boosting enrollment in areas that are geographically isolated and lack adequate healthcare facilities and staff. The organization works to combat the cultural factors that deter rural families from enrolling in coverage, such as feelings of distrust towards outsiders and general misconceptions about the services provided through Indian Health Service.

Staying up-to-date on key rural health issues helps make outreach efforts relevant to the families and organizations you serve. Rural Health Information Hub (RHIhub) is an online guide to improving health within rural communities and provides current resources and tools that can help your organization learn more about rural health-specific needs. RHIhub features a selection of different evidence-based online toolkits, including resources specifically designed for rural community health workers, oral health and health literacy. 

New Rural Health Initiative Page and Campaign Materials

The Connecting Kids to Coverage National Campaign: Reaching Rural Communities webpage contains resources specific for conducting rural health outreach, including the “5 Ways to Conduct Outreach in Rural Communities” tip sheet. This tip sheet contains tips for identifying eligible rural families, partnering with local organizations and small businesses, and leveraging partnerships with health providers. And the “Connecting Kids to Coverage: Kentucky” outreach video demonstrates how health centers, like Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation, are working to expand access to health care in rural communities.

The Campaign’s Outreach Tool Library also features ready-to-use tools like message guides, templates, and resource links, and offers social media graphics for Facebook and Twitter.

We want to hear your success story!

Does your organization use targeted outreach strategies to enroll rural families in Medicaid and CHIP? If so, we'd like to learn how your organization is connecting kids to coverage! Share details with the Campaign via email at ConnectingKids@cms.hhs.gov or on Twitter using the hashtags #Enroll365 and #KidsEnroll.