Event Recap: SouthWest Region Rural Health Summit

Up to an 11-year life expectancy gap exists between rural residents and their urban counterparts in the SouthWest region of the United States.

hero_image_alt_text===Health Summit Attendees

To address this health disparity by utilizing the strength of rural communities, the SouthWest region of the American Heart Association hosted the inaugural SouthWest Region Rural Health Summit, supported by Texas Mutual. Nearly 200 attendees from Texas, Arkansas, Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma and New Mexico discussed a wide variety of topics to help determine the region’s rural action agenda.

Throughout the event, one notion was evident. Rural residents are exceptional at helping each other and creating community and that is an incredible foundation to build from.

“This Summit demonstrates the depth of our commitment in this arena and, most importantly, that we know we have much to learn,” said Executive Vice President Tanya Edwards. “We must first listen to leaders to be the partners our rural communities deserve.  We are grateful for the important work they do and for the time they took to be here today and are looking forward to what is to come.”  

Keynote speaker Jackie Stiles, one of the most renowned women’s basketball players in the history of the sport, opened the event sharing how the lessons she learned growing up in rural Kansas propelled her to greatness on the court and beyond.

Jackie Stiles

A “Voices from the SouthWest” panel discussion gave insight from those working with and supporting rural communities, providing invaluable firsthand insight on the challenges they are addressing and the unique initiatives that are changing lives.

During breakout sessions, participants heard from experts on various topics relevant to emergency response, prevention and healthcare quality improvement while discussing barriers to care.

Attendees also had the opportunity to get involved with a Grassroots team that included Chris Turner, Region Grassroots Manager, Elizabeth Williams, Grassroots Specialist and Douglas Dunsavage, Community Advocacy Director, North Texas.


The event wrapped up with a presentation on employee health and safety by Jeremy Hansen of Texas Mutual followed by the highly anticipated introduction to AED delivery via drones by Justin Boutilier from the University of Wisconsin.

Through event discussions and feedback provided by participants, the Association will be better informed on efforts to help address the health disparities that exist in our rural communities through a strategy tailored to the unique needs faced throughout the region.

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