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Out in the rural: A Mississippi health center and its war on poverty

November 16, 2016

New York - The remarkable individuals who founded the first rural community health center in Bolivar County, Mississippi more than 50 years ago led "a radical assault on both the medical and the social status quo," writes Thomas J. Ward Jr. in his new book, Out in the Rural: A Mississippi Health Center and Its War on Poverty, published by Oxford University Press. The story is as "urgent today as it was a half century ago," according to Publisher's Weekly.

"The Mississippi experiment tested a bold hypothesis - that health centers could serve as important instruments of social change. Fifty years later, the fruits of that experiment endure," said Dr. H. Jack Geiger, the World War II merchant marine officer turned physician, educator and civil rights activist profiled in Ward's new book. Along with pioneering activists Dr. John W. Hatch, L.C. Dorsey, Andrew B. James and others, Geiger co-founded the health center in Mound Bayou to serve a target population in the northern third of Bolivar County, in the Mississippi Delta region, one of the poorest populations in the nation. Now known as the Delta Health Center, it was one of the nation's first two community health centers, and sister to the urban Tufts-Columbia Point Health Center founded by Geiger and his colleague, Dr. Count D. Gibson, at a public housing project in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston.

"In telling a story that started fifty years ago, Out in The Rural has enormous relevance for public health and health policy today," said Dr. Ayman El-Mohandes, Dean of the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Policy. "We are thrilled that Professor Ward and Dr. Geiger will help bring this vital part of American social and medical history to life and are honored to host the book's launch celebration."

Author Thomas J. Ward Jr., Professor and Chair of the Department of History at Spring Hill College in Mobile, AL, will read from the book at a publication launch event tomorrow. Following the reading, an expert panel will discuss the importance of the Mound Bayou experience and its implications for health care practice and policy. Panelists include:
  • Dr. H. Jack Geiger, Project Director of the Tufts-Delta Health Center;

  • Dr. Warria A. Esmond, Medical Director, Settlement Health;

  • Daniel R. Hawkins, Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Research at the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC); and,

  • Dr. M. Monica Sweeney, Vice Dean for Global Engagement, Clinical Professor, and Chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management in the School of Public Health at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

"Out In the Rural is an important contribution to the social and political history of community health centers," said Feygele Jacobs, President and CEO of the RCHN Community Health Foundation. "In documenting how health centers got started, it provides a clear-eyed and inspiring look at the power of passionate individuals to change the face of health and health care in America."

"Today's American community health center movement, which provides a health care home to more than 25 million people at nearly 10,000 urban and rural sites, stands on the shoulders of those pioneers who built the first rural center at Mound Bayou, and continues to build on that groundbreaking model," said Hawkins.

RCHN Community Health Foundation provided grant support for the project in conjunction with other funders and is a co-sponsor of the launch event along with the National Association of Community Health Centers. The event is also sponsored by the Geiger Gibson Program at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, which helped support the research on which the book is based.

Out in the Rural: A Mississippi Health Center and Its War on Poverty is available from Oxford University Press.
-end-
Reporters interested in attending the event or interviewing Drs. Ward or Geiger may contact Susan Lamontagne at susan@publicinterestmedia.com or 917.568.0969.

The CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy promotes health and social justice and provides a collaborative and accessible environment for excellence in education, research, and service in public health, to promote and sustain healthier populations and to shape policy and practice in public health. http://www.sph.cuny.edu.

The Geiger Gibson Program in Community Health Policy is a special initiative of Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. Named after Drs. H. Jack Geiger and Count Gibson, pioneers in community health practice and tireless advocates for civil and human rights, the program aims to develop the next generation of community health leaders. For more information click here: http://publichealth.gwu.edu/projects/geiger-gibson-program-community-health-policy

The RCHN Community Health Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation established to support community health centers through strategic investment, outreach, education, and cutting-edge health policy research. http://www.rchnfoundation.org and http://www.chcchronicles.org

Founded in 1971, the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) is a non-profit representing the nation's network of more than 1,400 Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), which expand healthcare access by serving more than 25 million people through nearly 10,000 sites in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam. http://www.nachc.org

Oxford University Press USA

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