By Priscah Mujuru, DrPH, MPH, RN, COHN-S
Scientific Program Officer, Community Health and Population Sciences
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities
Rural health to me, is a lived experience. I was born in the rural areas of Zimbabwe. In my village, when a pregnant woman couldn’t make it to the hospital, there were no gloves, clean working stations, or sanitized rooms to ensure safe childbirth. A female in labor would be aided in her delivery by other village women who used what they had: hot water, rags, old razors, and even twine made of tree bark to help with the delivery. We never thought we were poor, and in fact we were proud and happy of who we were.
I was fortunate that my father valued education and sent all his children, 6 girls and 4 boys, to primary and secondary schools. He felt that it did not matter if you were a boy or girl, man or woman, everyone should be given an opportunity to get an education. In a small village, to send so many children to school when there was work to be done, was very rare.
I took my father’s lessons to heart and continued my education. I spent almost 10 years in nursing and midwifery practice, and served as a clinical trials research nurse. I also obtained a degree in Occupational /Industrial Hygiene. My education took me to many wonderful places and I eventually landed a position as an Assistant Professor and Occupational Health Nurse Specialist at the Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health and Community Medicine in the School of Medicine at West Virginia University. My first significant assignment was to research public health needs for an MPH program in rural WV. I was mystified that the idea of “rural” had any sort of existence in West Virginia, let alone the United States of America!
That is when I realized that rural public health is a global issue and it affects people in varying degrees all over the world. At least 20% of the United States population live in the rural areas. At NIMHD, I am well positioned to address the health disparities issues within diverse rural populations of whites, blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and U.S. immigrants. There is a need for researchers to address the many social determinants of health in rural populations.
November is designated National Rural Health Month. I invite you to join NIMHD and other NIH Institutes and Centers for the Inaugural Rural Health Seminar.
Date: Monday, November 18, 2019
Time: 9:30 a.m. – Noon ET
Location: NIH Main Campus, Natcher Conference Center (Building 45, Rooms A/B)
The seminar will bring together researchers, medical practitioners and others to explore topics in rural health, and to share research ideas about how innovations in clinical and translational science could improve rural health outcomes.
I hope you will join us for this event.