Former US Surgeon General discusses rural health care initiatives at Purdue

Photo by Amie

The former U.S. Surgeon General is hopeful Purdue’s new rural healthcare initiatives will remove barriers.  

Jerome Adams, a presidential fellow at Purdue, says the university’s Health Equity Strategy promotes food for health.

“One of our big pillars as I build out our health equity strategy at Purdue is food for health. When we talk about food for health, we’re talking about nutrition. How can we educate people so that they understand how to eat healthier but then also how can we give them the opportunities that they may not have in a rural community to eat healthy,” he says. “For example, in my suburban community, there are two different grocery stores within five minutes of my house. When you go to a rural community, the nearest grocery store may be 15 to 20 miles away. There are barriers there for people to be able to access foods and make healthy choices in those communities. We want to make the healthy choice the easy choice for more people.”

Audio: Jerome Adams

Adams served as the 20th U.S. Surgeon General during the Trump Administration. He is now the first executive director of Purdue’s Health Equity Initiatives.

He says the university is currently collecting data.

“We want to make sure we’re putting in systems that allow us to understand what the toll is in different communities. I was the Indiana state health commissioner before I was surgeon general of the United States. I traveled around to most of our 92 counties and what I found is the problem in one county is not problem in another county,” he says. “…So, we need to go into these communities, listen to them, help them collect and understand their data so we can have tailored interventions which will help these communities overcome their health problems.”

Adams says he intends to utilize Purdue Extension to increase the reach of the initiative.  

Jason Henderson is the director of Purdue Extension.

“In Purdue Extension, we’ve been involved in health over 100 years. It originally started with working through homemakers and teaching families how to treat cuts and burns and more.  Today, we’re doing a lot of different things such as working with stress and mental health for farmers and working with Indiana State Department of Agriculture and others to have workshops to help people in the industry understand signs of stress,” he says. “The other thing we’ve been working on is vaccinations and education on vaccinations. COVID has raised a lot of questions, but we know that vaccinations in all other different areas like Polio and some other diseases have been very beneficial. We hope the questions around the COVID vaccinations that have arisen don’t change people’s perceptions on the benefits of vaccinations that our history has shown us to be very beneficial.”

He says education and partnerships are critical.

“We believe in the power of education and partnership,” he says. “For us in rural areas, it’s our way to extend the outreach of Purdue and our stakeholders and partners to get the best information and resources out to all of our rural stakeholders so they can make the best decisions for their farms, families, and communities.”

Audio: Jason Henderson

Adams says the Health Equity Strategy relies on working with farmers, understanding their needs, and providing them better resources for the economic and health vitality.

Brownfield interviewed Adams and Henderson during the recent Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry.

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