Rural Health

It’s National Public Health Week and today’s focus is Rural Health. Malheur County has nearly 9,900 square miles and 31,700 people, for an average of 3.2 people per square mile. About half of our population live in the cities of Nyssa, Ontario, and Vale. The other half live in more rural areas across the county. Much of our focus in public health is on addressing the disparities experienced due to inequities, such as living farther away from health care and other services.

For science.
Fourteen percent of Americans live in rural areas. Rural Americans have higher rates of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes. Compared to urban residents, they are at higher risk for poor health outcomes because of the range of health disparities they face. Racial/ethnic minorities and tribal groups are at higher risk for poor health outcomes, compared to non-Hispanic white adults. These health disparities include poverty, food deserts, also known as food apartheid, exposure to specific environmental hazards and less time for leisurely physical activity. People living in rural areas have less access to health care because of fewer providers and facilities and more transportation barriers. They are also not as likely to have health insurance. These factors play a part in the greater risk of death from heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease and unintentional injury from motor vehicle crashes and opioid overdoses that rural residents face.

Children living in rural areas also face greater challenges with their development, mental health and behavioral health. Youth working on farms are at higher risk of injuries. They are 7.8 times more likely to die because of a work injury compared to youth in other jobs.

For action.
Improve mental and physical health and community involvement by creating activity programs and modifying local areas like parks and playgrounds and creating walking trails and protected bike lanes. Increase access to health facilities and other public resources by arranging transportation services using volunteer rideshare, public buses and scheduled vans. Provide mentoring, counseling, vocational training and college prep for underrepresented students. Advocate for easier access to and training and authorization of first responders to use naloxone. Push to expand medical school training to include skills to successfully practice in rural areas. Increase the availability of the internet to support telehealth services for more accessible healthcare. Work with federally qualified health centers that deliver care to all patients – with or without insurance.

For health.
There are effective strategies that have been tested in multiple studies and have worked in rural communities. School breakfast programs help reduce food insecurity and improve student diet, health and academic achievements. Research also shows that vocational training for adults and high school students help strengthen the health workforce available in rural communities and set residents on a path to succeed in and improve their communities. School-based health care and dropout prevention programs also help high school students achieve academic success. Increased access to naloxone and training to administer it can also bring a decrease in fatal opioid overdose rates.

National Public Health Week is here!

As we celebrate the 28th National Public Health Week (NPHW), April 3-9, we want everyone to know they can make their communities healthier, safer and stronger when we support and stay engaged with one another. As we adjust and adapt to new social norms, we’re focusing not just on what we can do as individuals, but what we can do as communities to protect, prioritize and influence the future of public health.

This NPHW, one of our goals is to look at how our cultural connections and intersections affect our health, well-being and the public health system that cares for us. We’re encouraging everyone — public health professionals, students, elected leaders, activists and the general public — to step in and do what they can to make our world a more equitable, safe, healthy and just place. We hope you’ll join us. Call our office at 541-889-7279 to find out more about how the Malheur County Health Department can support you and your family.

Join us in observing NPHW 2023 and become part of a growing movement to create the healthiest nation in one generation. During the week, we will celebrate the power of cultural humility and prevention, advocate for healthy and fair policies, share strategies for increasing equity and champion the role of a strong public health system. Let’s make public health and caring for all our communities fundamental parts of our culture! 

Our theme for today, Monday, April 3rd, is Community.

For science.
Community is where we are. It’s our connections with others who share similar interests, attitudes and goals. Over the past few years, those connections have been greatly impacted. Physically distancing from one another and limiting communal gatherings can lead to social isolation, increasing rates of depression, impaired immunity and premature mortality. These outcomes are even worse for and in communities marginalized due to their race, income, sexual orientation and gender identity. The political climate has also weakened the connections between communities. Debates over access to health care and funding strategies have distanced communities from one another. This makes communication and cooperation extremely difficult. There are also other conditions in our communities that impact our health and well-being called social determinants of health. People living just a few blocks apart may have very different life expectancies because of the safety of the neighborhood they live in or the quality of their schools. Transportation barriers and lack of health insurance can limit access to health services. This can increase the risk of harmful health behaviors like skipping medication or postponing care. Having to travel long distances to access nutritious foods is linked to food insecurity. This puts communities at higher risk for chronic conditions, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. There are also negative environmental health conditions like poor air quality that can result in cancer and lung and heart diseases.

For action.
Become more engaged or re-engage with your community and make an impact on public health. You can join a community garden, donate healthy and culturally appropriate canned food options to food pantries or volunteer at local food distributions. Join a recreational sports league or fitness group to engage in physical activity and to socially connect with others. Support community-led solutions by asking questions at public forums or joining a community advisory board. Get information on how your state uses public health funding. Advocate for your local elected officials to use funds to address health disparities. Encourage your local government to support healthy community design that includes parks, sidewalks and bike lanes. Tell them to fund programs to prevent unhealthy living conditions. Pursue community-engaged and multi-sector partnerships. Advocate for a health-in-all-policies approach as a strategy to improve community health. Engage your public health peers and elected officials on health topics on social media to gain more understanding about specific threats and to hold people in decisionmaking roles accountable.

For health.
People with greater feelings of support, connection and inclusion within their networks may live longer, respond better to stress and have stronger immune systems than those who are isolated from their communities. However, research also shows that cross-sector efforts are needed to redesign the conditions of our social, built and natural environments to promote health equity and improve social determinants of health. The public health workforce should possess skills and knowledge that cut across disciplines in areas like policy, communications and data analytics. Neighborhood programs like community gardens not only improve access to nutritious foods, but they also cultivate social support and emotional well-being. Adding elements such as sidewalks, parks, libraries or bike routes to neighborhoods supports physical activity and decreases the negative health effects of air pollution. Local efforts must improve housing, education, food, transportation and the environment to support equity, resilience and health at the individual and community levels.

In celebration.
The White Earth Nation response to the COVID-19 pandemic incorporated cultural heritage and spiritual values while focusing on a vaccination campaign for their most at-risk members. Participation in traditional Greek dance sessions improves physical fitness and well-being of elderly adults. LGBTQ+ recreational sports leagues use physical activity to bring people together and connect with other members of their community. Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. created an online toolkit to help raise awareness and support for the mental health of Black men and their families. Peer-education programs about sexual heath and reproduction specifically for Black and brown teenage girls and adolescents help youth connect and achieve better educational outcomes.

Mammography Bus Cancelled for 1/27

We’re sorry to report that Saint Alphonsus had to cancel their Mobile Mammography unit planned to be at the health department Friday, January 27th. They have contacted everyone who scheduled an appointment. There is another date scheduled in Ontario in the Albertsons/Ashley Furniture parking lot for February 28th. You can make an appointment for that date by calling 208-367-8787. Thank you!

Winter Donation Drive

We, at the Malheur County Health Department, feel that it is important to practice the act of giving during the holiday season. We are hosting a Winter Donation Drive because it’s the season to help our neighbors!

Please bring new or gently used coats, clothing, and pajamas to the MCHD office at 1108 SW 4th Street in Ontario during business hours. We also will accept unopened infant formula. We are collecting to distribute to local organizations, including Origins, MCCDC, and ODHS, serving people in need. Call us at 541-889-7279 for more information.

We thank you in advance for your kind donation.  Wishing you all a happy and healthy holiday season!

Save the Date! National Rural Health Day

Mark your calendars! November 17th is National Rural Health Day and an opportunity to remember and promote healthcare providers in communities like ours. Small towns, farming communities, and frontier areas are places where neighbors know each other, listen to each other, respect each other, and work together to benefit the greater good. We know how great it is to live here, but we also recognize the challenges.

The third Thursday in November has been set aside to highlight rural communities as wonderful places to live and work, increase awareness of rural health-related issues, and promote the efforts to address these issues.

Rural communities have unique healthcare needs. Today more than ever, rural communities like Malheur County, must address accessibility issues, a lack of healthcare providers, the needs of an aging population suffering from a greater number of chronic conditions, and larger percentages of un- and underinsured citizens.

To follow along on social media, please use the hashtag #PowerofRural.

Hands Around the Park Today

The Malheur County Health Department will not have our regularly SMART Recovery meeting today, September 15th, to encourage everyone to go to Laxson Park (NW 4th St, Ontario) from 4:30-6:30 p.m. for Hands Around the Park. We will celebrate National Recovery Month at this amazing event, hosted by the Malheur County Prevention Coalition.

Malheur County Prevention Coalition welcomes everyone to join in honoring the hard work of all people in recovery, the dedication of all who support them and the care of the community. With motivational speakers, music, free food, awards, booths and activities for children, this free, family-friendly event is a celebration of prevention, treatment and recovery efforts and the people who are committed to the health of our community.

The SMART Recovery meetings will resume next Thursday, 3-4 p.m. at the health department (1108 SW 4th Street, Ontario). Led by our peer team of Certified Recovery Mentors, the meetings are free and open to anyone seeking science-based, self-empowered addiction recovery. People who are suffering from addiction, as well as their family and friends, or people who want to help others in their community are welcome. At meetings, participants help one another resolve problems with any addiction.

We hope to see you at Hands Around the Park today and SMART Recovery next week!

Make the Connection: Shared Experiences and Support for Veterans

If you are a Veteran, or family member of a Veteran, facing challenges in your everyday life… you are not alone. At the Malheur County Health Department, we honor Veterans and recognize the unique health needs of Veterans and their families.

There are millions of Veterans and family members who have reached out for support during tough times through Make the Connection.

Created by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is an online resource designed to connect Veterans, their family members and friends, and other supporters with information, resources, and solutions to issues affecting their lives. In addition to powerful stories, Make the Connection provides information about life experiences you can relate to. You also can explore information about signs, symptoms, and conditions that are related to mental health and well-being.

If you are in crisis, reach out to the Veterans Crisis Line anytime. Dial 988, then press 1. More information at Veterans’ caregivers can find help through the VA Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274.

Thank you, Veterans! We support you.

Order free home tests through Friday, Sep. 2

The federal government is putting a pause on sending free COVID-19 testing kits to Americans. However, the program is still accepting orders before this Friday, September 2nd. With recent surges of both COVID-19 cases and the percentage of tests reported that are positive in Malheur County, home testing when symptomatic or exposed to a known case is an important tool to reduce the number of outbreaks.

Visit and enter your mailing address to have free iHealth rapid-antigen COVID-19 home tests sent to you. Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order THREE rounds of free at-home tests. Each shipment includes two kits of two tests each. Each household is eligible for a total of 12 tests but must order by this Friday. Need help placing an order for your at-⁠home tests? Call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489).

Reminder: iHealth rapid-antigen home COVID-19 tests currently have a 12 month extension in their expiration dates. See the FDA iHealth extension dates, as of July 8, 2022, here.

The most important action you can take to prevent serious illness is to be vaccinated. Call your healthcare provider, pharmacy, or our office at 541-889-7279 to schedule an appointment.

COVID-19 vaccine boosters can further enhance or restore protection that might have decreased over time after your primary series vaccination. People are protected best from severe COVID-19 illness when they stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines, which includes getting all recommended boosters when eligible. Use the step by step guide on the CDC COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters page to find out when you can get your booster or call our office at 541-889-7279 if you received your vaccines in Idaho or Oregon and we’re happy to look it up for you.

For a snapshot of the weekly COVID-19 monitoring, see the graphic below and stay up to date on the OHA dashboards.

Malheur County Health Equity Conference September 28 & 29

Join us to connect and collaborate to advance community health and equity during a robust day focused on solutions and strengths.

About this event:

The 2022 Malheur County Equity Conference is Thursday, September 29th, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at the Four Rivers Cultural Center. We will bring together the public, employees of businesses, nonprofits, and government, to learn from each other, celebrate accomplishments, and fuel change.

Conference participants are encouraged to attend an informal reception in the Japanese Garden also at the Four Rivers Cultural Center on Wednesday, September 28th, from 5-7 p.m., the evening before the conference. Meet and greet speakers and other attendees and preview booths from community partner organizations. Hors D’oeuvres will be served.

This event is sponsored by Four Rivers Healthy Community; presented by the Malheur County Equity Stewards; in partnership with over a dozen community organizations, including the Malheur County Health Department, championing health equity together.


  • Registration, meals, and materials are FREE. No cost to attendees.
  • Attendees will receive a certificate of participation if they attend the full day, September 29th.
  • Each attendee will have the opportunity to attend seven sessions in the day, to learn and connect.
  • For people who work for businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government. Open to the public and all who are interested in population health and wellbeing. Residents of other communities are welcome.

More information:

All Adults Should Be Tested for Hepatitis C

Here are three things you should know about hepatitis C. 

  • One. Millions of Americans have hepatitis C and many don’t know it. 
  • Two. Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer. 
  • Three. Hepatitis C can be cured. Talk to your doctor about getting tested. It could save your life.

Hepatitis C is the most commonly reported bloodborne infection in the United States. No vaccine against hepatitis C exists and no effective pre- or post- exposure prophylaxis is available, but there is treatment that can cure infection. More than half of persons who become infected with HCV will develop chronic infection. 

Visit for more information. Call our clinic at 541-889-7279 or reach out to your primary care provider to schedule testing.