United Cooperative donates $5,000 to Rural Health Initiative

Before the formation of the Rural Health Initiative (RHI), farmers were an unseen commodity in doctor's offices around Shawano, Outagamie and Waupaca counties. "Farmers were the original self-employed workers. They've always paid self-insured premiums, and as a result make choices to not go to the doctor when they need to," said Rhonda Strebel, executive director of the RHI.

When RHI was formed in 2004, the question was raised about how health care could reach the farmer before he or she needed to go to the emergency room, she said. "In a focus group, one person said: 'If you aren't going to come to the farm to see the farmer, you aren't going to see them,'" remembered Strebel. And that's the statement that launched RHI, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, to be a community-funded service offering for farmers, brought to the farm. In 2017, the initiative's two part-time staff and Strebel served over 550 individuals on 160 farms, in two different languages, thanks to RHI's generous partners, she said.

United Cooperative, with matching funds from Land O'Lakes Foundation, provided $5,000 to RHI to support this unique health care initiative offered at the farm. United Cooperative President and CEO David Cramer said, "Our organization is pleased to provide an annual gift to Rural Health Initiative to support health screenings and services offered to farmers and farm workers in Shawano, Outagamie and Waupaca counties. Farmers are the backbone of our member organization, and it is imperative in this economy where talent is hard to find for jobs that all farm owners and farm workers to be in good health.”

Strebel says the Rural Health Initiative starts with preventative health-screenings at the farm, and 50 percent of the time, an acute condition is found through a health screening conducted by RHI staff. "Once we detect something, we provide education, health coaching, and/or find them a health care provider," she said. On some farms, RHI spends time talking about safety issues, such as ear, eye and skin protection, to ensure farm workers are being responsible for safe operations around equipment and chemicals, Strebel added. In conversations with farmers, the Rural Health Initiative knows it has changed the culture of how health care is viewed and used at the farmgate. And its RHI's responsibility to ensure farmers health care needs are met, one farm at a time.

To find out more about Rural Health Initiative click here.