September 09, 2021

Webinar on COVID-19’s impact on rural children’s development is Sept. 16

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A new report finds that the pandemic is having an enormous impact on Illinois’ rural children as COVID-19 continues to complicate the systems that support rural children’s development.

Children in rural communities often have limited access to healthcare, sub-par early childhood opportunities and internet connectivity issues that create challenges for virtual learning. The pandemic has magnified those issues and the rise of the Delta variant makes children more susceptible to COVID-19 infection.

The Illinois Rural Health Summit organizing group, consisting of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine Department of Population Science and Policy, SIU Carbondale Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, The University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health and the SIU Medicine Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development, have developed a set of recommendations to make immediate and long-term improvements in children’s development in rural Illinois.

  • Build the capacity in rural Illinois to provide children with the academic, social and emotional skills necessary to be prepared for kindergarten.
  • Increase funding and technical assistance opportunities for rural schools to provide quality, affordable and comprehensive health care to children.
  • Invest research and program funds to encourage childhood service sectors to provide integrated, personalized and comprehensive services to children and families in rural communities.

The Rural Health Summit will host a webinar at noon Thursday, Sept. 16, to discuss how COVID-19 has impacted rural children’s development. Registration is open for that webinar and a schedule of upcoming webinars.

“We must do all we can to support Illinois’ families,” said Dr. Sameer Vohra, pediatrician and chair of the SIU Medicine Department of Population Science and Policy. “The problems with equity in education, health care and access to necessary resources in rural areas have been around for decades. The pandemic has made all these issues worse, and it’s rapidly introducing new challenges with the rise of the Delta variant. These recommendations aim to incorporate immediate strategies coupled with the long-term investment needed to build brighter futures for children in Illinois.”

The policy recommendations are the result of discussions from rural health stakeholders, community leaders, legislators, physicians and experts from organizations throughout Illinois and build on the Rural Health Summit’s initial report, “Building a Healthier Rural Illinois: Understanding and Addressing the Challenges of COVID-19.”

The Rural Health Summit is releasing monthly topic-specific policy briefs and hosting corresponding webinars through January 2022 on topics of an aging rural population, mental health, public health systems, nutrition and fitness, children’s growth and development, workforce development, opioids, health and housing, and economic development.