Working with Communities
Since its inception in 1980, the Center has placed the highest premium on providing quality, responsive service to rural North Dakota health organizations, providers, communities, state agencies, and state-wide associations. All are critical elements in working to build stronger, healthier communities.
Community development refers to a process that facilitates the establishment and/or strengthening of the relationship of a health organization with its community. Health organizations that are actively engaged with community members and organizations tend to be more viable. By connecting with the community, the health organization is better aware of the wants and desires of community groups and can position itself to be responsive. The community provides resources in the form of ideas, workforce/volunteers, financial and moral support to a health organization. Rural health organizations, in particular, cannot survive in isolation, as they have become more and more a part of a complex and unpredictable environment. Without a strong connection with and understanding from the community, they place themselves in greater risk. Community engagement (i.e., intentional and direct effort to listen to and learn from the public) creates new resources, vitality, and synergy for the local health system.
As a process, community development can involve many forms and techniques such as community needs assessments, strategic planning, decision-making, evaluation, vision/values/mission development, community forums/dialogues, and skill training and development.
The Center emphasizes capacity building for rural organizations and communities. Capacity building refers to the development of new and stronger skill sets, education and training, information acquisition, and an enhanced decision-making ability on the part of rural organizations, community groups, or individuals/families. As a university program, the Center for Rural Health treats seriously its responsibility to assist people in acquiring new skills, accessing information, and broadening their awareness of options. By investing in their own capacity, community leaders build stronger and more viable rural health systems, organizations, and communities.
The Center’s influence is felt today throughout rural America. The Center continues the tradition of community development through its efforts with the following programs:
- State Office of Rural Health grant program
- Flex Program (Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Grant Program)
- Workforce development
- National Resource Center on Native American Aging and other Native American focused programming
- Dakota Conference on Rural and Public Health
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota Rural Health Grant Program
- SHIP (Small Hospital Improvement Program)
- VOICE (Vision, Opportunity, and Innovation through Civic Engagement)
- Rural People, Rural Policy