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Social, environmental and behavioral determinants of health account for 60 percent of a person’s health status. Consequently, community development can influence health, and a healthy community has a significant economic impact. High rates of chronic, but mostly preventable, diseases are one of the biggest drivers of health care costs and are limiting worker productivity.

The Family Health and Wellness Coalition was formed in 2015 with the focus of reducing chronic disease risk among residents of Boone, Colfax, Nance and Platte counties. This emerging coalition is motivated to increase participation, resources and other core capabilities such as planning, implementing and evaluating their work.

Through the 2017 project “Building Capacity for Developing, Implementing, and Evaluating the Family Health and Wellness Coalition’s Community Health Improvement Plan,” Todd Bartee of the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Jerry Schultz of The University of Kansas and Jennie Hill of the University of Nebraska Medical Center - UNMC will help the coalition increase its capacity to:

a) assess, prioritize and plan;
b) take targeted action;
c) change community conditions and systems through the implementation of evidence-based interventions;
d) and achieve widespread change in behavior and risk and protective factors.

By the end of the project, contributors and partners will have produced a systematic community change process that can be replicated in other rural areas.

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Of the 734 counties in the nation that were categorized as entirely rural, 93.6% had no record of licensed psychologists. (American Psychological Association, 2015: www.apa.org/about/gr/issues/gpe/rural-communities.pdf)

Alongside this shortage of mental health professionals is a rising number of rural college and university students who experience mental health difficulties. This combination of factors calls for a comprehensive public health approach to addressing underlying causes of mental illness and related stigma. It also calls for a focus on equipping students with resiliency skills that lay the foundation for growing strong and healthy minds.

A team of University of Nebraska Medical Center - UNMC researchers is addressing this through the project, "Interdisciplinary and Collaborative Approach to Ending Mental Health Stigma and Promoting Mental Health Among Rural Nebraska College and University Students Through Community Forums."

The team seeks to develop and implement a promising mental health promotion curriculum aimed at addressing stigma and alleviating mental health difficulties among college and university students in Nebraska through civic engagement, health education and advocacy.

Project contributors include:
Principal investigator Sonja Franziska Tutsch Russell (pictured), doctoral student of the Rural Health Education Network in the UNMC College of Public of Health

Howard Liu, Director of the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska & UNMC Vice Chancellor for Faculty Development

Shinobu Watanabe-Galloway, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology in the UNMC College of Public Health

Monica Snowden, professor of sociology at Wayne State College

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Articles, Releases & More

Culture & Entertainment for Young Nebraskans

July 19, 2017
It is so important for young people in general to feel like they have a purpose and that they are a part of something. Because Nebraska is made up of rural communities, it is especially important that young Nebraskans have the opportunity to feel this way. Entertainment and culture are great ways to do that. Both bridge gaps and prevent people from feeling like they are missing out on something. Continue reading
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Growing Our State Through People Attraction, Retention & Development

July 13, 2017
As the “talent attraction coordinator” for Nebraska’s Department of Economic Development (DED), my business is growing Nebraska. My team is dedicated to attracting, retaining and developing the people of Nebraska to match the growing job opportunities here. Continue reading
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NEWS RELEASE: Rural Futures Institute Invests in Research, Teaching Projects to Address Critical Rural Challenges, Find Solutions

July 6, 2017
Rural mental and physical health care access, entrepreneurship and technology are among the critical topics addressed by this year’s competitive teaching and research grants through the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska (NU). Continue reading
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