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COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA Department of HealthKAREN REMLEY, MD, MBA, FAAP P O BOX 2448 TTY 7-1-1 ORSTATE HEALTH COMMISSIONER RICHMOND, VA 23218 1-800-828-1120 April 6, 2011 Dear Rural Health Summit Participant, I am sorry I cannot be with you at the 4th Annual Rural Health Summit for Virginia; but please know that I find the work you will be engaging in of utmost importance in improving the health of each Virginian. In Virginia’s State Rural Health Plan it says the following: “Improving rural health requires innovative, creative and integrative strategies that address both individual health-related behaviors and the many social determinants of health. Each of you will be bringing that essential innovative, creative and integrative approach to this Summit and I am sure there will be many very positive collaborations and outcomes as a result. As you work on this planning effort, I ask you to think beyond health care services to the more multifaceted social conditions that impact health. There are health benefits to living in rural areas--clean air, fresher food, more affordable housing, less stress and a greater sense of community and support. Unfortunately, while these may all be true, in general, many rural and remote areas lack access to these and other social determinants of health and suffer from a health differential that is skewed toward higher mortality and morbidity rates for some diseases and increased rates of hospitalization. Each member of the VDH community is committed to rural health and health equity. We are committed to addressing and improving the social determinants of health and their distribution among different rural populations. Today you will be hearing more about health equity as you explore the question, “Do rural areas of Virginia have the same access to quality health services and opportunities to live long, healthy lives as their urban peers?” It is so important that we only use this question as a starting place, and then use innovation and collaboration to develop plans to ultimately change the answer to that question to a resounding “yes”. Under your engagement and leadership, much has been accomplished, but there is much more to be done in attaining the goal of every rural Virginian having long, healthy lives in healthy communities. Virginias State Rural Health Plan was updated at the end of 2008 after a two-year process of obtaining stakeholder input and is a 3-5 year strategic plan designed to strengthen the health care infrastructure in rural areas. The ownership of the plan truly resides with the people of rural Virginia. Over 40 stakeholders, including many in this room today, were involved in the initial phases of plan development. As a result, this is a plan that has momentum. Significant progress toward implementing the 43 recommendations has already been made in just over two year’s time. You will be hearing about many of these remarkable achievements over the course of your day today and tomorrow. A very special thank you to the Virginia Rural Health Association and the Office of Rural Health who have co-led this effort. Governor McDonnell talks about Virginia being a Commonwealth of Opportunity. Economic opportunities and healthy communities go hand in hand. Your work here today will help make this vision a reality. I look forward to learning about your collective recommendations and next steps in moving rural health in Virginia forward. Thank you for bringing your wisdom and insight to this Summit. Sincerely, Karen Remley, MD, MBA, FAAP State Health Commissioner