Merit Health River Region awarded for efforts to improve rural stroke care

Published 4:30 am Friday, November 17, 2023

People who live in rural communities live an average of three years fewer than their urban counterparts and have a 40% higher likelihood of developing heart disease and face a 30% increased risk for stroke mortality — a gap that has grown over the past two decades. Merit Health River Region is committed to changing that.

For efforts to optimize stroke care and eliminate rural health care outcome disparities, Merit Health River Region has received the American Heart Association’s “Get With The Guidelines® – Stroke Rural Recognition Bronze” award.

The American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, recognizes the importance of healthcare services provided to people living in rural areas by rural hospitals that play a vital role in the initiation of timely evidence-based care.

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For that reason, all rural hospitals participating in “Get With The Guidelines® – Stroke” are eligible to receive award recognition based on a unique methodology focused on early acute stroke performance metrics.

“We are proud that our team at Merit Health River Region is being recognized for the important work we do every day to improve the lives of people in Vicksburg who are affected by stroke, says David Fox, chief executive officer. “Rural communities deserve high-quality stroke care. I’m proud of our team for their commitment to stroke care excellence and this achievement.”

The award recognizes hospitals for their efforts toward acute stroke care excellence demonstrated by composite score compliance to guideline-directed care for intravenous thrombolytic therapy, timely hospital inter-facility transfer, dysphagia screening, symptom timeline and deficit assessment documentation, emergency medical services communication, brain imaging and stroke expert consultation.

“Patients and health care professionals in the Vicksburg area face unique health care challenges and opportunities,” said Karen E. Joynt Maddox, M.D., MPH, volunteer expert for the American Heart Association, co-author on “Call to Action: Rural Health: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association” and co-director of the Center for Health Economics and Policy at the Institute for Public Health at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. “Merit Health River Region has furthered this important work to improve care for all Americans, regardless of where they live.”