The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will distribute approximately $1 million for a project to improve the health and wellness of the rural workforce in four Arkansas counties that currently have higher rates of chronic disease, health risk factors and other health disparities.
The USDA Project to Support the Health Advancement of Rural Employees (SHARE), implemented by Winrock and partners, including the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University, the Arkansas Community Health Workers Association, and Arkansas Community Health Centers, seeks to improve Total worker health in the Arkansas Delta by providing support to employees, employers, nurses, medical personnel, and community health workers.
The four counties affected include Mississippi, St. Francis, Phillips, and Chicote.
“A healthy workforce is a vital component of overall economic development,” said Linsley Kincaid, senior director of US programs at Winrock. “This project promotes a culture of health in our existing industries, promotes the improved health of our residents, and creates opportunities for both employees and employers.”
The two-year SHARE project will improve health and wellness by conducting job site assessments and providing training in health curriculum development, health checks and training to some of the region’s largest employers in select counties in the delta. Mississippi, St. Francis, Phillips, and Chicote counties rank in the bottom 10% of Arkansas in terms of health outcomes and health factors, according to the 2021 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s 2021 Health District Rankings. Residents of these counties are more likely to develop high blood pressure and coronary heart disease, as well as risk factors including smoking and obesity.
The project will link occupational health and social determinants of health into employee health promotion programmes. This approach will target local employees, employers, clinical staff and community health workers to increase access to health care and education in the area; These groups represent a network that can improve the health of the rural workforce when properly coordinated.
SHARE aims to reach a diverse audience in Delta to address the burden of chronic disease that is driven by socioeconomic determinants. Using the CDC Worksite Health Score Card, the project will identify strengths and areas for improvement in health topics such as stress management, nutrition, alcohol and substance use disorder, heart attack and stroke. The resulting recommendations could suggest ways to include healthy food options in the workplace, create on-site food pantries, and/or improve support for employees recovering from substance use disorders. In all, SHARE will reach up to 20 employers or job sites, 100 employer managers, 4,000 employees, and up to 16,000 family members in the region.
SHARE is funded by the US Department of Agriculture for Rural Development through the Delta Healthcare Grants (DHCS) Program, which provides financial assistance to meet unmet health care needs in the Arkansas Delta Region.