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Strengthening rural health in the state of Texas

School of Public Health project will help shape Episcopal Health Foundation’s rural health strategy in its 57-county region

Since 2013 the Episcopal Health Foundation (EHF) has worked to provide innovative solutions to improve health and health care in Texas. Focused on the 57-county region served by the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, EHF helps congregations organize and focus their effort to have the greatest impact on their communities’ health.

In light of the fact that rural communities face unique challenges to health, including an insufficient supply of basic preventative, primary, behavioral and oral health services, EHF is working to expand its reach to help those in rural communities who are impacted the most.

As part of its effort, EHF has engaged the Center for Community Health and Aging (CCHA) and the Southwest Rural Health Research Center (SRHRC) at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health to help it better recognize the unique perspectives of those living in historically under-researched and disenfranchised rural communities. 

CCHA and SRHRC recently received funding for the project, which will advise EHF on the future of its rural investments beyond 2023.

James N. Burdine, DrPH, director of CCHA and Regents Professor in the Department of Health Behavior serves as the principal investigator on the project and Alva O. Ferdinand, DrPH, JD, director of SRHRC and interim head of the Department of Health Policy and Management serves as the co-principal investigator.

“The Episcopal Health Foundation wants to do an environmental scan to look at how other organizations, other foundations and other non-profits are looking at rural health problems and what is working, what are ideas and what are approaches that they (EHF) should be examining,” Burdine said. “They want to look at what is going on in the philanthropic world around them relative to rural health.”

According to EHF, through this project it aims to understand the ecosystem of organizations and stakeholders that influence rural health in EHF’s service area; the current philanthropic and public sector landscape and trends in funding health in rural communities; underutilized or emergent public sector and philanthropic resources that could be leveraged through EHF investment; and emerging models for providing health services and addressing social determinants of health in rural communities.

“Our team will do interviews with community leaders, as well as national, state and local foundations, to find out what these individuals and organizations see as best practices and priorities for rural America, what is getting funded now and what they wish was getting funded,” Ferdinand said. “We are going to present this information to Episcopal Health to inform their strategic planning around how it should look at rural health as part of its portfolio.”

Rooted in faith and active in health, EHF believes all Texans deserve to live a healthy life—especially the poor and those with the least resources. EHF is seeking to enhance the conversation on health by addressing the non-medical contributors to poor health.

Media contact: Dee Dee Grays,, 979.436.0611

Tim Schnettler

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