Mar 7, 2024 - Health

New UAMS institute hones in on rural health

an illustration of a health plus shaped like an open lock

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences this month launched an institute geared toward researching and implementing ways to improve health in rural and medically underserved areas.

Why it matters: Most of Arkansas is rural and consistently ranks poorly in areas like maternal health and food security, and it has fewer health care providers per capita than the national average.

How it works: The new Institute for Community Health Innovation is through the Springdale-based Office of Community Health and Research. The work will focus on establishing partnerships with organizations like schools or hospitals to meet rural residents where they are, institute director Pearl McElfish told Axios.

  • Researchers will hone in on maternal and child health; hunger and nutrition; obesity, diabetes and hypertension; and health access and equity.

What they're saying: More than half of people who've recently given birth in Arkansas do not make it to their postpartum doctors' appointments, McElfish said. That can be because of factors like a lack of transportation, juggling going back to work with a new baby and new moms not prioritizing their own health when they have too much on their plate.

  • In this case, UAMS might look at how to offer more telemedicine for new moms, for example.

The intrigue: UAMS, which is based in Little Rock and has a regional campus in Fayetteville, now has eight institutes.

  • This is the only one headquartered in NWA, and it will have staff across the state in Batesville, El Dorado, Fort Smith, Helena-West Helena, Jonesboro, Lake Village, Little Rock, Magnolia, Pine Bluff and Texarkana.

By the numbers: UAMS received $24 million in federal grants to support the institute.

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