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Local services provide rural healthcare options for Wyoming residents

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

For years, rural America has faced issues of affordable and accessible healthcare, creating barriers which limit their ability to obtain the care they need. 

“Access to healthcare implies healthcare services are available and obtainable in a timely manner, yet rural residents often encounter barriers to healthcare access,” states the Rural Health Research Center (RHRC). “Even when an adequate supply of healthcare services exists in the community, there are other factors which may impede healthcare access.”

For instance, to have healthcare access, rural residents must also have financial means to pay for services, reach and use services and the ability to take paid time off of work to use such services.

In addition, the RHRC stated rural residents need to feel confident with their healthcare provider and trust they can use the services without compromising privacy and will receive quality care.

Rural healthcare systems are fragile, and in many cases, when one facility closes or a provider leaves, it can impact trust, care and access impacting the entire community.

Healthcare issues are no stranger for Wyoming residents and have been the topic of conversation over the years for state leaders.

Community programs

The Wyoming Center on Aging (WyCOA) at the University of Wyoming established the Healthier Wyoming initiative in 2022, which empowers all Wyoming residents to take charge of their health through the use of a comprehensive statewide directory of chronic disease prevention and management resources.

The Healthier Wyoming initiative is offered in partnership with the Wyoming Department of Health’s Chronic Disease Prevention Program and WyCOA.

According to the Healthier Wyoming website, the service provides residents with resources on evidence-based programs, which are based on rigorous research and are available across Wyoming.

These programs include diabetes prevention and self-management, chronic disease management, heart disease prevention and resources on aging – all designed to educate and empower participants to take control of their healthcare and live their best.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Statistics 2020 Report states, “One in three adults in Wyoming has prediabetes, and 84 percent do not know they have it.” 

But, Healthier Wyoming can help individuals with diabetes find a prevention program in their area.

WyCOA also offers residents Healthy U, a free six-week program designed to help participants manage chronic health conditions. 

Healthier Wyoming also provides evidence-based programs, particularly relevant for older Wyoming residents, who have two to three times higher rates of chronic disease compared to national averages.

Healthcare options

Wyoming residents have been faced with healthcare challenges for years, and in the 1980s, Bob Price, Michelle Ferguson and U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) came together to establish Wyoming Health Fairs (WHF) in 1984.

WHF celebrated its 40th anniversary, providing accessible and affordable healthcare screenings to residents of Wyoming in an effort to provide awareness to Wyoming communities and support providers no matter where an individual is on their wellness journey. 

Paul Nash, director of client relations for WHF, states, “WHF strives to bring traditional and innovative wellness solutions to Wyoming communities to achieve the very best outcome at the lowest cost possible.”

“Over the years, the organization has expanded to accommodate corporate wellness programs, along with the growing demand for our services from the community members,” he explains. “WHF has added offices in Cheyenne, Laramie, Riverton, Torrington and Scottsbluff, Neb. and built a fleet of 12 vehicles which travel across the region.”

There are numerous services available through WHF, including an expanded list of low-cost screenings which include blood chemistry panel, hemoglobin, prostate-specific antigen, vitamins, thyroid, blood type, testosterone, arthritis, celiac, hepatitis, SAR-CoV-2 antibodies and ferritin, among many others.

He continues, “In 2023, WHF introduced a new test, the Lipoprotein-Associated Phospholipase, which helps predict risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke.”

WHF offers yearly health fairs and weekly or monthly screenings across Wyoming with additional blood screening in various towns on a scheduled basis.

Stress assistance

The agriculture community faces unique challenges and may find themselves impacted by natural disasters, low commodity prices, disease, labor shortages and drought.

“These stressors can weigh heavily on producers and even their family members,” states Wyoming 211 Resource Database and Agricultural Specialist Nichole Coyne. “To help farmers and ranchers in coping with the stress and demands unique to their industry, Wyoming 211 has partnered with the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network to provide information and referral to resources and services to assist farmers and ranchers in need of support or assistance.”

The AgriStress Helpline for Wyoming is a resource for farmers and ranchers to reach out to trained professionals and get the assistance they need, while providing access to care to a vital population that often holds their burdens and worries in silence.

Coyne continues, “The ultimate goal of Wyoming 211 is to improve the health and welfare of Wyoming’s citizens by connecting them to appropriate services. Wyoming 211 can be used directly by consumers as well as by service providers and case managers for referral information. Wyoming 211 is available for anyone in Wyoming.”

Over the years, Wyoming’s healthcare industry has deeply relied on federal funding to support an array of healthcare services. However, lawmakers will continue to support healthcare programs during the legislature’s 2024 budget session set to begin next month.

Look for future articles in the Wyoming Livestock Roundup on the 2024 Legislature budget report impacting Wyoming healthcare.

Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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