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Transitioning from narratives of separation, isolation, and deficit to an acknowledgment of the interconnectedness, symbiosis, and mutually reinforcing strengths of the rural-urban relationship will be key to the re-invention of a healthier rural America. In this compendium, drafted in the lead-up to the 2020 Healthier Rural America Summit in Omaha, Nebraska, A Healthier WE outlines a new, evolving, dynamic model of rural health that emphasizes integration, mutualism, and the common good.

Read our May 2, 2020, Op-Ed from the Omaha World-Herald

Read our recent Op-Ed that appeared in the Omaha World-Herald. This piece focuses on rural leadership bringing people together, spurring positive results during this unprecedented time in our history. Please feel free to share it with your friends and colleagues. We also welcome your feedback.


Healthier Rural West Post-Event Findings Synopsis:

The Healthier Rural West Summit was held in Salt Lake City on March 19-21, 2019. The event brought together over 300 healthcare and health related industry participants representing a variety of disciplines for two days of discussion, debate, collaboration and opportunity for innovation.

A post-event survey was sent out immediately following the event, and what follows is a simple one- page synopsis of findings and learnings from the participants and sponsors:

Total number of surveys sent: 260 (estimate) Total number of respondents: 73

Total response rate: 28% (above industry average for this type of survey)


Why did people attend the Summit?

Of the participants who responded:

These words made their way into most participants responses to this question:

  • Learn (about ways to improve rural health, as well as about other systems that are currently working)
  • Network (with others in the industry)
  • Collaborate (with new and existing contacts to improve rural health)
  • Partner (to grow, to expand, to learn, to improve)
  • Spread the mission (of rural health – what’s working, what’s not)
  • Help (improve, grow, collaborate) rural health

Were their expectations met?

Of participants who responded: 96% said yes, only 4% said maybe or no

Did they feel the ticket price was fair, did they get value for money?

Of participants who responded: 88% said yes, 12% said maybe or no

Did participants like the quality of the speakers?

Of the participants who responded: 85% rated the speakers Very Satisfactory/Satisfactory Most respondents felt the speakers were interesting and informed on the subject matter

What did they like best about the event?

Of the participants who responded:

Variety, quality and diversity of speakers, the focus on action, emphasis on collaboration, innovation discussions, fast-paced format, strong, relevant content, attendees from a variety of sectors, helped identify future partners, new ways to implement rural health programs

What did they like least about the event?

Of the participants who responded:

Sessions were too short, not enough time for questions, lack of a personal and community level perspective, lack of diversity and inclusion among speakers, not enough time to network, needed more “young and rising” attendees and speakers, too many sponsor dominated discussions, three days was a bit too long

How did the participants rate the event overall?

Of the participants who responded:

84% rated the event Very Satisfactorily/Satisfactory

This is very encouraging if there are plans to do a Summit in the future

What role would the participants like to play in the Incubator Initiatives moving forward?

Of the participants who responded, the largest role by far was Participant (54%), followed by Other (27%), which was obviously mostly undefined. Some of the “other” responses included: Board Member, Collaborator and Advisor. There was very little interest in funding any initiatives from the participants who responded.

Did the Summit foster collaboration and convene the appropriate stakeholders?

Overwhelmingly, participants felt the event fostered collaboration and brought together the appropriate stakeholders to create and implement rural health initiatives.

The participants rated the Opening Keynote Session with high marks – 76% saying it was Satisfactory/Very Satisfactory

Of the participants who responded:

The sessions with the highest percentage of “Satisfactory/Very Satisfactory” were:

  • Essential Health Action Areas – 77%
  • Opening Session – 76%
  • Telehealth – Enhancing Health in the Rural West – 74%
  • Utah Alliance for Determinants of Health – 73%
  • Using Cross Sector Collaboration to Build Well-Being – 68%
  • Pitch Competition – 58%
  • Suicide Prevention Panel – 57%
  • Opioid Response Panel– 55%

The sessions with lowest percentages of “Satisfactory/Very Satisfactory were:

  • Community Pharmacy Session – 18%
  • Rural Latino Health – 19%
  • Sub Special Access – Healthcare for All – 20%
  • Healthcare Markets Pricing and Competition – 20%

The following cities and states were identified as popular places to hold the next HRWS:

Salt Lake City, UT, Denver, CO, Boise, ID, Sun Valley, ID, Albuquerque, NM, Bend, OR, Flagstaff, AZ, Santa Fe, NM

Other Findings of Interest: Evening and Networking Events were welcomed

  • The Opening Night Networking Dinner with keynote was rated 66% Satisfactory/Very Satisfactory
  • The Healthier WE Networking Reception had a 66% overall Satisfactory/Very Satisfactory rating

Overall what made the event successful?

Of the participants who responded:

Phil’s vision and passion, the event brought in a wide range of stakeholders, the event was well- lead and professional, the event felt “different” and innovative, it encouraged collaboration across many rural health sectors, offered robust networking opportunities, and created an urgency to take action

Would you attend the event again?

92% of the participants who responded said they would attend the event again.


Resolution: Transitioning to A Healthier Rural West for One and All

Recognizing that rural health in the American West is at an inflection point, and noting the numerous, urgent calls to action for rural health embodied by the Western Governors’ Association’s Policy Resolution 2019-04 on Health Care in Western States, the 2018 World Organization of National Colleges, Academies and Academic Associations of General Practitioners/Family Physicians World Rural Health Conference Declaration on Health for All Rural People, the 2018 National Rural Health Association’s Rural Health Emergency Declaration for the Secretary of Agriculture, Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s 2017 Declaration on Rural Health Week, and 2014 US Senate Resolution 588 ‘Recognizing that access to hospitals and other health care providers for patients in rural areas of the United States is essential to the survival and success of communities’;

And whereas the provision of health services in rural America is a critically important economic foundation for surrounding communities, and an instance of health as economic development reflecting the disproportionately positive returns on investment in rural health nationally;

And whereas the ancillary benefits from Critical Access Hospitals including the contribution of up to 20 percent of economic output in rural communities;

And whereas widely available broadband services, through their beneficial use in telehealth and telemedicine, as well as their catalytic effect on educational attainment and economic opportunity require urgent deployment to underserved and rural areas;

But whereas healthcare provider shortages and workforce retention issues result in inequitable access to health services for rural people and threaten advancements and the equitable distribution of health status and technologies;

And whereas substance abuse and addiction disorders require a public health and rural perspective in community responses;

We, the people of the rural American West, in order to promote the general welfare and secure health for ourselves and our posterity, undertake this resolution to:

Undertake prioritized, innovative incubator initiatives and make them become productive, realistic deliverables through a dynamic rural health incubation working group, comprised of constituents from across the broadest possible swathe of stakeholders, with subject area experts in the domains of technological tools, cross-sector collaboration, health infrastructure, social determinants of health, environmental health, health workforce issues, behavioral health, and health equity;

Connect thought and opinion leaders with rural health practitioners and community members through an annual healthier rural west summit, beginning with the inaugural Healthier Rural West Summit informed by priorities set during the Healthier Rural West Summit to be held March 19-21 in Salt Lake City, Utah;

Communicate emergent issues and lessons learned via the creation of engaging, trusted, and transparent communication and messaging initiatives, including podcasts, videos, on-line learning, and a dedicated rural health topic guide on the subject of rural health innovation hubs and incubator operation, informed by a survey of Healthier Rural West Summit attendees on Innovative Initiatives to Transition from Crisis to Wellbeing;

Now therefore resolve that will jointly endeavor to effect these objectives and provide for their continued operation until such time as no rural person is left behind.

Crossing the Continental Divides – Transitioning from Crises to Well-Being


March 3, 2019


This year marks the 150th anniversary of the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad which occurred at Promontory Point, West of Ogden, Utah. The event culminated with the driving of a ceremonial golden spike, engraved with a paean to ‘the unity of our Country, as this Railroad unites the two great oceans of the world’. The spike was driven by Leland Stanford, formerly the Governor of California, then the president of the Central Pacific Railroad, later the founder of Stanford University.

The same motivations – conveying people across continental divides in the spirit of unity – are operative in the Healthier Rural West Summit, taking place March 19-21, 2019 at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Summit builds on momentum from 2018, when Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center for the American West convened a workshop to devise strategies for improving health care and wellness in the rural West, entitled ‘Improving Health and Health Care in the Rural American West’. That workshop featured a commencement statement by Phil Polakoff, Consulting Professor at Stanford University School of Medicine and Affiliated Scholar at the Center.

Dr. Polakoff recognized a series of persistent divides hampering care coordination, efficacy, and efficiency in rural health. Inequities between socio-demographic groups, geographic isolation, and differential distribution of the social determinants of health conspire to build up silos among stakeholders, and lead to a fragmented system of health and healthcare delivery. As a result, ‘a striking gap in health between rural and urban Americans’ has opened, mirrored by analogous gaps in health status and life expectancy between generations, broadband availability and adoption – creating tech ‘haves and have-nots’ between regions, and >


    • At the granular level:

     •Rural residents are poorer on average; per capita incomes are >$7,000 lower than for urban residents

     •Rural life expectancy – male and female – is approximately two years less than for urban residents

     •Only about ten percent of physicians practice in rural America despite the fact that nearly one-fourth of the population lives in these areas


To transition from these crises to well-being, bridging divides is a necessary precondition. The Healthier Rural West Summit is therefore structured to Convene key stakeholders, Connect thought and opinion leaders with practitioners and community members, Communicate nascent issues and lessons learned, foster Collaboration, and secure Commitments from relevant parties throughout the Rural West.

Join us for The Healthier Rural West Summit. The Summit is a two-day, strategic gathering of stakeholders from across the Rural West that will offer participants an inspiring vision of rural cooperation and leadership in the information and health economies. Get your ticket at
Given the gravity of the health challenges facing those of us who call the Rural West home, transitioning from crisis to well-being will require significant mutual effort. “In these times, if ‘I’ is replaced with ‘We’, even illness becomes wellness.”





A Healthier WE Announces Inaugural Healthier Rural West Summit

Transitioning from Crisis to Wellbeing: The Summit will bring together more than 400 key stakeholders to address challenges facing the health and wellbeing of America’s rural West


Healthier Rural West Summit is pleased to announce a growing and well-respected list of sponsors, patrons and speakers. This inaugural event, being held March 19-21, 2019, at Little America in Salt Lake City, will address key challenges to the health and wellbeing of the rural American West by offering an inspiring vision of rural cooperation and leadership in the coming information and health economies.


A Healthier WE, a nonprofit organization which is a catalyst for finding innovative solutions and opportunities through partnerships and collaborations among changemakers, is producing the Summit in collaboration with Founding Sponsor, Intermountain Healthcare, along with the following list of sponsors and patrons:

Zions Bank, DMBA, Cambia Health Foundation, University of Utah, Utah Department of Health, Stanford University The Bill Lane Center for the American West, Little America, Utah Hospital Association, Morgan Stanley, Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Johnson & Johnson, and Goldman Sachs.

The Summit will include 80+ speakers and presenters who will discuss, debate and offer incubator initiatives focusing on solving the health, economic and environmental crises in the rural American West. Confirmed speakers include:

Marc Harrison, MD, President and CEO Intermountain Healthcare

David Kennedy, PhD, Co-Founder, Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University

Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands, State of Washington

Spencer Cox, Lt. Governor, State of Utah

Michael Good, MD, CEO University of Utah Health

In a highly participative format, more than 400 state and local government officials, nonprofit, faith and community activists, health system payors and providers, physicians, nurses and health caregivers, technology and business innovators, along with academic and thought leaders, will listen to inspiring talks and participate in interactive sessions to formulate successful strategies for creating wellbeing in the West.

This event is designed to foster a collaborative and critical problem-solving environment, focused on dialogue and action. Building on the theme of Transitioning from Crisis to Wellbeing, the outcomes will focus on four main health action pillars:

This event is designed to foster a collaborative and critical problem-solving environment, focused on dialogue and action. Building on the theme of Transitioning from Crisis to Wellbeing, the outcomes will focus on four main health action pillars:

• Creating Healthier, More Equitable Communities

• Fostering Cross-Sector Collaboration

• Making Health a Shared Value

• Strengthening Integration of Health Services and Systems

The Summit will hold a closing pitch competition to select five or more rural health innovative initiatives that merit incubation to a deliverable state under the direction of A Healthier WE. 

Phil Polakoff, MD, CEO of A Healthier WE and Consulting Professor, Stanford University School of Medicine, said “We are excited to partner with key stakeholders in rural health and healthcare. We look forward to forming critical relationships with the wide range of leaders who are committed to transitioning from crisis to wellbeing.” 

If you have any questions regarding information in these press releases please contact the company listed in the press release. Our complete disclaimer appears here 

Contact Information Phil Polakoff A Healthier WE 510-508-9216 

The Healthier Rural West Resource Guide is intended to serve as a pre-reading primer for conference attendees; highlight the vital contributions of individuals and organizations whose efforts have been shown to be effective in improving rural health; serve as a repository and clearinghouse for useful tools; and to disseminate actionable information on both looming challenges and time-tested solutions.

UNCOMMON DIALOGUE: Improving Health and Health Care in the Rural West

A presentation by Phil Polakoff MD, Affiliated Scholar, The Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University

Lessons Learned From and For Rural Health

A Care Redesign Survey by Amy Compton-Phillips, MD Providence St. Joseph Health and Namita Seth Mohta, MD NEJM Catalyst

Listen to Dr. Phil Polakoff’s podcast on Future/Hindsight

We discuss how an emphasis on prevention coupled with innovations in healthcare access and delivery can help us share greater health and equity for all Americans.

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