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New Rural Health Innovation Program will launch the next generation of rural public health leaders

Public health providers in rural areas face very different challenges than those in urban areas. Although these professionals have the best understanding of the health challenges facing their own communities—including ingrained issues with health care systems, policies, and funding models—they lack influence over the policies that affect those communities.

Too few of these professionals are educated and empowered to advance change in policy at the state and federal levels. Yet most public health master’s programs lack programming focused specifically on rural public health.

This is why Berkeley Public Health Online has launched the Rural Health Innovation Program. With $10 million in support from the Barr-Campbell Family Foundation, the initiative will offer 25 fully paid scholarships per year to eligible online MPH students. One hundred scholars will receive their total funded MPH over the course of four years.

“Studying Health Policy and Management at the University of California’s Berkeley School of Public Health, I learned exactly what I needed to know to be able to make a difference in rural healthcare,” said Lynn Barr, MPH, director of the Barr-Campbell Family Foundation and founder and former CEO of Caravan Health. “As a direct result of my MPH and the extraordinary Cal alumni network, I founded Caravan Health in 2014.”

“My foundation’s first major grant is $10 million to promote an innovative public health workforce in rural America by fully funding 100 Rural Innovation Scholars to receive online MPH degrees at UC Berkeley School of Public Health,” said Barr.

These Rural Health Scholars will study alongside a larger cohort of public health masters students across disciplines as well as a more intimate cohort that is equipped with a specialized rural health curricula. 

Ten Scholars per year with a professional focus on rural health policy will be selected as  Rural Policy Fellows and will attend the National Rural Health Policy Institute in Washington, DC, where they will receive additional training in policy and advocacy and meet with key national policy leaders.

“We look forward to supporting these emerging rural health leaders on their MPH journey as they learn to create, advocate and implement innovative policies on access, funding, workforce and technology to improve the health and wellbeing of our approximately 46M+ rural Americans,” said Professor Kimberly MacPherson, MBA, MPH, faculty director for Health Policy and Management at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.

The Rural Health Innovation Program at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health  will produce the next generation of rural public health leaders, who will both reshape healthcare policies impacting rural communities and rework and reimagine existing healthcare systems to put these policy changes into effect.

“UC Berkeley School of Public Health has long stood for health equity and social justice,” said Dean Michael C. Lu, MD, MPH, MS. “The leaders who participate in our new Rural Health Innovation program will go on to improve health care access and quality of care to millions of rural Americans.”

“I am excited about the potential for game-changing impact of this program” said Michael C. Lu, MD, MPH, MS, dean of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.  “I’ve seen the difference that one individual can make; now imagine what 100 public health changemakers like Lynn Barr can do collectively to improve, innovate, and transform rural health in America.”