Western Montana’s The Missoulian features a perspective from Lutheran Services in America president and CEO Charlotte Haberaecker on the progress being made for rural seniors by factoring social determinants of health in to an innovative program. Read the perspective below or find it amongst The Missoulian's letter to the editors.
I read with interest the Missoulian’s recent guest column by Tom Winter (“Fixing Montana’s rural healthcare crisis,” Aug. 27). Winter is right to note that “one-size-fits-all” approaches are no solution when it comes to delivery of healthcare services in rural communities. This reality is of particular importance when it comes to seniors.
The U.S. Census Bureau informs us that Montana ranks among America’s top five states for percentage of people age 65 and over. Many seniors living in Montana’s rural areas struggle with chronic conditions and access to care, limited financial resources, isolation or loneliness. They may well have unmet daily needs such as transportation to appointments, companionship or help with challenging household tasks.
A growing body of research tells us that what “social determinant of health” factors like these have in common is how directly they affect seniors’ wellness and quality of life. With this reality in mind, we launched the Lutheran Services in America “Great Plains Senior Services Collaborative,” a multi-year project focused on implementing sustainable solutions that enable older, rural adults to maintain their autonomy, improve their health and well-being, and achieve a higher quality of life. Importantly, the collaborative carefully factors in consideration of key social determinants of health in its various programs helping rural-area seniors.
This innovative, grant-funded initiative already has led to improved health and quality of life of over 1,100 vulnerable seniors in more than 70 rural communities in Minnesota and North Dakota. Building on this success and thanks to an additional generous grant from a large philanthropic partner, we recently expanded the collaborative to also include Montana.
In our expanded efforts in Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana, our member organizations, such as St. John’s United in Billings, will place particular emphasis on service coordination and community-based programs that promote social engagement — spelling what we believe will be good news indeed for many more Great Plains seniors.
President and CEO
Lutheran Services in America