Riverwood receives Minnesota Rural Health Team Award

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has awarded Riverwood Healthcare Center with the 2023 Minnesota Rural Health Team Award for its work in identifying the social determinants of health among its patients and creating community partnerships to address those needs. Riverwood was one of four Minnesota health organizations and individuals recognized by the MDH Office of Rural Health and Primary Care for the 2023 Minnesota Rural Health Awards, which were announced to coincide with National Rural Health Day on Nov. 16.

“Riverwood works hard to provide services to a diverse population of elderly, low-income, and multi-generational families,” said Population Health Manager Rachel Johnson. “In response to our 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment, we developed the Riverwood Connects program (#togetherwewillconnect) to identify the unique needs of the population we serve and to address social determinants of health.”

This community health initiative is a collaborative effort with leaders from Aitkin County Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP), Aitkin Farmers Market Hub and Aitkin County CARE (Coordinating Area Resources Effectively). They have been working together to implement Find Help, a 24/7 on-line resource hub, as well as establish the Food Rx Program that provides qualifying participants with Community Support Agriculture (CSA) shares and Riverwood Connect Bucks to be used at the Aitkin Farmers Market. Access to affordable nutritious food as well as to other community resources such as transportation, utility and housing assistance, are essential resources that help advance health equity in Aitkin County and beyond.

Riverwood went live in June 2023 with the Community Resource Questionnaire in which the organization started evaluating and addressing social determinants of health with patients through the Riverwood Connects program. To date Riverwood has assessed 1,352 unique patients and determined the top area of need is access and support for food at 38%; affordable and stable housing at 20%; transportation to and from work, appointments, necessities at 7%; and housing and utilities money at 7%. Riverwood has referred 77 patients and enrolled 59 patients into its Food Rx program.

Population Health Program Manager Rachel Johnson added, “We are truly grateful to our partners in assisting us in making this work possible. Aitkin County CARE assisted with identifying the need for a resource hub, including financial and administrative assistance. They have been instrumental with community outreach and onboarding community organizations with Find Help.”

“Additionally, Aitkin County SHIP and the Aitkin Farmers Market Hub have been influential on setting up the Food Rx program. The Food Rx program would not be possible without their support with local farmers and outreach efforts. Riverwood Connects is not only helping community members in need but supporting local small businesses and organizations throughout the county and region.”

For more information go to https://riverwoodhealthcare.org/services/wellness/