Collaboration Defines Rural Ozarks Health Initiative

Feb 20, 2020

In 2018, the Community Foundation of the Ozarks teamed up with the Missouri Foundation for Health to provide funding for the Rural Ozarks Health Initiative, or ROHI.(pronounced Roh-Hee) It's a three year, $750,000 grant program to address priority health issues, and communities or regions served by C.F.O. Rural affiliate foundations.

On today's edition of our ongoing series, Making a Difference, a Conversation on Collaboration, and the importance and impact of ROHI with, Sara Morrow from the Missouri Foundation for Health; Alice Wingo, Vice President of Affiliate's for the CFO; And Robin Morgan, President of the Community Foundation of West Plains.

Sarah Morrow is Senior Community Liaison With The Missouri Foundation For Health
Credit Mike Smith / KSMU

Sarah Morrow says it was 2017 when the Missouri Foundation for Health and the CFO first had conversations about the Rural Ozarks Health Initiative. "Brian Fogle with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks had courted us for a while. CFO and MFH had conversations previous to my working in the field and timing wise, it finally worked out where Missouri Foundation For Health was in an evolution of how we were looking at our rural communities and how we could really be most impactful. And we finally were able to formalize that into into an agreement," Morrow said.

"The preparations were to let our affiliate foundations know about this outside funding opportunity for their communities," says Alice Wingo. "And that's one thing we're always looking for at Community Foundation of the Ozarks,is how can we leverage and collaborate with other organizations to bring dollars that don't originate into their communities, into their communities. So we ask our affiliates to find out what those health needs are, what are some the partners in their communities that are helping to meet those needs, and start to think in terms of how to collaborate within their own communities," Wingo said. 

"You know," said KSMU Producer Mike Smith, "a great many of CFO's 49 affiliate foundations are in rural areas. Describe the need for such an initiative as ROHI."

"It's immense, overwhelming," says Sarah Morrow. "I think that the response not only in the things that we've seen the funding go to and support, but just hearing about all of the that the health needs that are that are happening on the ground in local communities. I mean, I think a lot of them come to mind when you think about health needs, but sometimes they're very nuanced for that local community and it's very specific to a local community. And so I think the need is is tremendous," Morrow said.

Alice Wingo is Vice President of Affiliates for The Community Foundation Of The Ozarks
Credit Mike Smith / KSMU

"And it's growing," says Alice Wingo. "As health systems are closing down and as health care is becoming harder to obtain. So, for instance, in Shannon County, one of the poorest counties in Missouri, they have very few providers for and no providers for behavioral health. Very few providers for dental health. There just are not clinics and dentists and and providers in those areas. So we've had to be creative on how to get health care to those communities," Wingo said.

"I think there's a broader awareness now of all the social determinants of health and how communities can address health holistically, which I think has been a great focus for this program," said Sarah Morrow. "I mean some of this funding will be used to really address health from a holistic approach," Morrow says.

"In total, Missouri Foundation for Health is granting through community foundations $750000 in rural Missouri over these past three years, says Alice Wingo.

Of that 750 grand, $150,000 each goes to health projects in Carthage, Cassville and Monett. With each community providing local matching dollars. And thirty grants of $10,000 each, are addressing locally identified health issues in communities served by C.F.O. Rural affiliate foundations, including, according to Robin Morgan, the West Plains Community Foundation.

"We asked agencies to fill out a grant application and then a grant committee reviewed all the applications," says Robin Morgan. "And we not only had members from our board on the grant selection committee, but we also invited Ozark Actions CEO to sit on the selection committee. We also asked the Howell County Health Department to send us a representative and also our Ozarks Medical Center. And so we also collaborated not only with our board, but outside agencies to help us make that decision on the selection. In West Plains, we got a total of twelve agencies that filled out the application, and we chose four," Morgan said.

Robin Morgan is Board President of The West Plains Community Foundation
Credit Robin Morgan / Community Foundation of the Ozarks

"The first one," Morgan says, "Was our Howell County Health Department, and their application was for a program that they're calling All Heart, for screening and education of heart disease with an emphasis on lifestyle changes."

"Our second one was the Howell County extension," Robin Morgan said. "We granted them three thousand dollars of the $10,000 to hold educational classes for Howell County residents on preventing cancer, stroke and heart attacks. And these classes were not only fit to teach better nutrition health, but exercise options also," said Morgan.

"Our third one," says Morgan, "Was the Southern Missouri Community Health Center, and we granted them two thousand dollars for blood pressure cuffs for patients or clients who were unable to monitor blood pressure on a regular basis. But they will also have blood pressure education classes with with their grant money."

"And then our fourth one was we granted a thousand dollars to the West Plains Bike group, Through Cycling, an initiative to expand access to the current bike path, which is very new in West Plains. And they're really encouraging healthy lifestyles," said Robin Morgan.

"Yes, in Oregon County, not too far from where Robin is at," says Alice Wingo, "They had a remote area medical program that provides dental and vision and medical care for their community. And then in Nixa, just south of Springfield, they gave grants for clothing and food in the schools. And dental hygiene is a big program. Trails are big, and community gardens,"  said Wingo.

"I think one thing is don't ever be afraid to apply for a grant," Robin Morgan said. "And always be looking for them, because new grants are coming up all the time, and you never know when one is going to just fit your organization or your need," she says.

Sarah Morrow, agrees. "Yeah Robin, I think you're right. I think, you know, keeping your eyes open for opportunities locally, nationally, making sure that opportunities you find are fit both with the funding organization and their values and their mission is also a fit with the work you want to be doing and with the organization and your mission. Making sure those things are aligned is very important," Morrow said.

"I think, too, we have lots of good things going on with our affiliate foundations," said Alice Wingo. "So I would encourage listeners to to learn more about that program that really sets the the foundation in their community to help collaborate, bring in more funding, and really sets that foundation for long term sustainability for their community," says Wingo.

ROHI: A Three Year $750,000 Collaborative Grant Program From The Community Foundation Of The Ozarks; The Missouri Foundation For Health; and CFO Rural Affiliate Foundations
Credit Community Foundation of the Ozarks

Alice Wingo is vice president of affiliate Foundations for the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. Sarah Morrow is senior community liaison with the Missouri Foundation for Health. And Robin Morgan is president of the West Plains Community Foundation Board of Directors. For more information on the Rural Ozarks Health Initiative or ROHI, the Community Foundation of the Ozarks at cfozarks.org, or the Missouri Foundation for Health at mffh.org  For KSMU and Making A Difference, I'm Mike Smith.