Strategies for Rural Communities: Collaborations to Strengthen Health

Rural communities often have distinct healthcare needs compared to urban counterparts, sometimes exacerbated by demographic and societal trends. This panel identified key issues in rural healthcare and discussed the promise of collaborations to improve the health of people in Wisconsin’s rural communities.



Tim Size
Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative, Executive Director


John Eich
Wisconsin Office of Rural Health, Director

Jennifer Kowalkowski
UW-Madison School of Nursing, PhD Candidate

Jeff Smith
Wisconsin State Legislature, Senator

Laura Waldvogel
Family Health La Clinica, CEO

Top Takeaways from Panelists:

  • Collaboration is important; however, rural communities already are collaborating. To encourage and support collaboration, fiscal and structural changes could be made to integrate systems that frequently serve the same individuals and families, such as health and education. Health, financial education, and policymaking cannot be put in silos. They need to be integrated for collaboration to occur.
  • Successful solutions for rural communities are best developed with people who live and work in rural communities. Rural health systems operate differently from their urban counterparts, and those differences require tailored policies and processes. Examples of this include insurance networks and surprise billing. These systems are hindering rural communities from getting care near their homes.
  • Limited access to broadband hinders rural communities’ access to telehealth and other healthcare services. This has pushed some rural communities to develop creative service delivery methods for increasing access to care. For instance, Family Health/La Clinica created a mobile health center to treat migrant and agricultural communities.
  • Personal stories are vital to creating change in rural healthcare: doctors struggling to treat patients who live hours from the nearest clinic, and medical schools struggling to find enough faculty to teach the next class of nurses. These stories, together with data, will move the meter when it comes to policy development and implementation.