(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — Rural health policy expert Dr. Larry Gamm of the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health was among 300 invited participants at the first National Rural Assembly, June 25-27 in Washington D.C.

The Assembly – sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Ford Foundation and other national organizations – is intended to raise visibility and advance policy development on rural issues. In both funding and participants, it was closely linked with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation-funded Rural People, Rural Policy (RPRP) initiative to create a national network for policy development for improving quality of rural life.

Gamm, Ph.D., head and professor of the HSC-SRPH Department of Health Policy and Management, and Craig Blakely, Ph.D., M.P.H., HSC-SRPH associate dean for Academic Affairs, are part of the evaluation team of the current RPRP initiative. Dr. Gamm led development of the Rural Healthy People 2010 project at the HSC-SRPH Southwest Rural Health Research Center that has addressed more than 15 areas of rural health policy.

“Nearly everyone at this Assembly reinforced the notion that policies affecting access to health insurance, health care and prevention services cannot be separated from support of education, employment and attention to the environment in sustaining rural quality of life,” Dr. Gamm said.

Dr. Gamm noted the National Rural Assembly drew heavily upon the RPRP initiative, which has created five rural policy networks in different regions of the country. The regional approach is intended to develop the capacity of networks of rural organizations to advance rural policy in health, economic development and other areas at national, state and local levels.

The National Rural Assembly also employed a unique technology-enabled forum to facilitate and capture a consensus of the 300 participants on rural assets, challenges and priorities.

Some of the priorities were shared with presidential candidates who spoke with or otherwise sent communications to the Assembly.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its six components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, and the School of Rural Public Health.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell