The New Jersey Department of Health recognized Inspira Health for its collaborative efforts to achieve health equity by expanding access to care and improving the health of residents living in rural communities of southern New Jersey. New Jersey’s nearly 1 million rural residents encompass 10 percent of the state’s population living in small towns and farming communities. Gov. Phil Murphy declared November 13–17, 2023, to be “Rural Health Week,” and National Rural Health Day was observed on November 16.
During a visit to the Leading-Edge Cancer Center at Inspira Medical Center Mullica Hill, NJDOH officials, including Dr. Omolola Taiwo, executive director, Office of Primary Care and Rural Health, NJDOH; Damon Koslow, program manager; and Marisol Meyer, Rural Health Project officer recognized the work of Inspira’s Cancer Grants team, which oversees and provides free cancer screening programs to the underserved, facilitates free tobacco cessation services, provides education on chronic disease prevention; and offers free transportation to help eligible patients get to their appointments, screenings, and treatments. Additionally, the cancer grants team has improved access to health care by providing a community outreach worker to help residents overcome language barriers, and technology challenges, obtain prescriptions, schedule appointments, and complete screenings.
“Today we are recognizing the work of Inspira Health, and particularly its Cancer Grants team, for increasing access to cancer screenings and care, tobacco cessation support, and health education throughout our South Jersey counties,” said Dr. Taiwo. “We look forward to our continued partnership and achieving even greater outcomes by working together on local, state, and national initiatives. Inspira’s unwavering commitment to rural communities truly fosters better health and quality of life.”
Rural communities have their own unique health care challenges, which can often result in poor health outcomes. Within New Jersey, Cumberland and Salem counties have large rural populations and regularly score poorly on health outcome measures including tobacco use cancer prevalence and mortality rates.
Through the NJ Cancer Education and Early Detection program, Inspira provided more than 1,200 free cancer screenings in Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem Counties in fiscal year 2022 and that number increased to more than 1,300 in 2023.
Starting in June of this year, the Cancer Grants team collaborated with Inspira’s imaging partner, Atlantic Medical Imaging (AMI), to bring a mobile mammography van into the community.
“Our cancer grants team has made it a priority to understand and address the unique barriers to care faced by residents of our rural communities,” said Amy B. Mansue, president and chief executive officer, Inspira Health. “We have been able to successfully collaborate with our community partners on these important initiatives.”
“Inspira has developed strategies to help diminish some of the barriers that prevent people from getting the care they need- whether it’s cancer screenings, support for quitting tobacco, or even getting to their appointments,” said Donald Noblet, M.P.H., cancer grants manager for Inspira Health. “And our work with the Region 10 Chronic Disease Coalition also focuses on making sure health care services are accessible and affordable for residents of our rural communities.”
“Through a combination of patient navigation, provider education, and patient incentives, we’ve been able to increase cancer screening completion rates,” said Noblett. “And we look to expand our partnerships even further to assist more people living in our rural areas.”
Each year since 2011, the National Organization of the State Offices of Rural Health recognizes National Rural Health Day. This year, the White House honored the day with a proclamation.