Article by Rebeckah Berry, Grant Program Director (Access to Healthcare)
A year ago, I was hired by The Roundhouse Foundation to learn from and work alongside rural, remote, and tribal communities in Oregon to directly focus on an emerging strategic initiative, access to healthcare.
Access to healthcare is a complex topic. Some things I considered as I started this work were: are there services available; Is there an adequate supply of services; are there opportunities to obtain healthcare services; and to what extent are services available to various populations? For a population to gain additional healthcare access many factors often depend on financial, social, or cultural barriers, and, in Oregon, largely on geography.
In 2023, I met with 138 healthcare organizations and traveled to 53 rural Oregon communities to better understand how our state’s geography plays a role in healthcare access, and to learn about the unique strengths and differences of our numerous rural and remote communities. The impact of the gradual closing of pharmacies in rural and remote Oregon has had an alarming impact on healthcare.
The closure of rural pharmacies in Oregon removes access for individuals, families, and communities to urgent life-saving prescriptions and a necessary resource for managing health and well-being. In rural Oregon, losing one pharmacy could mean losing the community’s, or even a county’s, only drug store. They are also economic drivers in rural communities and support local livelihood.
This year I worked with my team at The Roundhouse Foundation and together we produced an educational paper entitled, “Oregon’s Rural Pharmacies.” There are many complicated reasons rural pharmacies struggle to remain open, some of which are shared in our paper. There is also a lot of hope to support these businesses, regional economies, and most importantly communities, due to our unique Oregon model that offers ways to innovate and explore brave new ways.
In 2024, we hope to share our learnings with collaborators and partners across all health-serving sectors in Oregon. We look forward to deepening trust and partnerships to pilot and explore innovative models to support rural pharmacies, their partners, and the many entities hoping for improved access to health in all the rural and remote spaces of Oregon.