August 2009
Montana Rural Health Initiative
Volume 1
In This Issue
What is the Montana Rural Health Initiative?
Join us to Launch the RHI!
Make Health Happen!
Laurel Public School's Employee Wellness Program
A Noteworthy Trail
Upcoming Webinars
Montana Rural Health Initiative
RHI Logo
Join Our Mailing List

Welcome to the first quarterly Rural Health Initiative Newsletter! Our hope is to increase communication while supporting the work of communities and individuals across Montana. Please let me know if I can be of assistance.

Shalina Mirza

RHI Logo

In February of 2008, Rural Health Initiative (RHI) partners organized a meeting of stakeholders including community members, local government officials, health care providers, public health workers, Tribal Health Department representatives and nonprofit organizations to discuss the need for a coordinated, collaborative approach to health prevention and wellness in Montana. 

After a day and a half discussion, a strategy was developed to improve health in Montana.  The core recommendation of the RHI stakeholder meeting was to create a network of health experts, as well as health prevention and wellness programs that exist across Montana. 

Following this discussion, a highly interactive website was developed as a platform for connecting Montanans and linking health and wellness programs and experts.  The website serves as an online community and network of information to promote healthy strategies that are working in Montana. 

Details of local prevention and community-based wellness programs are featured on the website as well as a database of experienced individuals willing to offer advice and assistance.  The site includes a calendar of events and links to state and national health prevention and wellness resources.  The RHI encourages networking and collaboration with RHI members via communication in the form of a listserv and an e-newsletter.

The RHI provides support for programs at all stages that are working to create healthier lifestyles.  The RHI can assist Montana communities who have identified health issues and are ready to begin health improvement.  The RHI connects members to experts who can provide support to programs as they aim to reach their health goals. 

Educational webinars are provided as a tool for RHI members. Webinars provide ideas and referrals to innovative programs around the state.  The RHI provides a place where communities can work together to create and improve initiatives aimed at increasing the health of all Montanans.

Although Montana is a geographically vast state full of wide-open spaces, we share many of the same visions and goals.  The RHI  supports partnerships and engages Montanans to share ideas and expertise to support each other's efforts to improve health.
The Rural Health Initiative  is  managed through the Montana Office of Rural Health and Area Health Education Center at Montana State University in Bozeman. 

To become a member of the Rural Health Initiative or for more information,  please contact:

Shalina Mirza, Project Coordinator
Join us to Launch the Rural Health Initiative!

Join us on August 10th at Montana State University in Bozeman to showcase and launch the Montana Rural Health Initiative (RHI) at Make Health Happen: Promoting Wellness and Prevention in Rural Communities.

This discussion will highlight innovative wellness initiatives across Montana and feature the launch of this new tool available to help connect individuals and communities in Montana.

The RHI is a unique collaborative effort to create a dynamic network linking prevention and community-based wellness programs throughout the state.

This panel will provide an opportunity for others to hear how this new website can support the work of communities and individuals. Leaders of innovative programs will share their stories; this panel will offer new ideas and is a chance to discuss creative ways to promote wellness across Montana.

For more information, please refer to the save-the-date below.

Bette Strever

Please join Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Office of Rural Health/Area Health Education Center, Flying Horse Communication, and the Montana Chamber Foundation for Make Health Happen: Promoting Wellness and Prevention in Rural Communities at Montana State University in Bozeman on August 9th and 10th.

Montana's local government officials, businessmen, health care providers, nonprofit organizations, public health workers, educators and others will come together to make important connections and figure out how best to propel our prevention and wellness efforts.

The Make Health Happen Summit will showcase innovative projects making our communities healthier. Through a series of presentation, workshops, and networking opportunities, it is our hope that we'll strengthen local efforts and find new ways to confront the challenges facing our communities. Most chronic health problems are linked to unhealthy lifestyles; together we can make communities healthier!

Please join us Sunday, August 9th from 1 to 4:30PM for a free grants seminar on private grants research
MSU-Bozeman in SUB Ballroom A.

The Foundation Center is the nation's leading authority on organized philanthropy connecting nonprofits and the grantmakers supporting them, to tools they can use and information they can trust.  This workshop will teach you how to identify and approach funders that are the best fit for your organization's needs. Caroline Herbert, a Foundation Center expert, will introduce you to a key online tool for identifying funders, Foundation Directory Online Professional. Topics covered include: introduction to funding research, effective search strategies, interpreting foundation information, and communications with potential funders.
Caroline Herbert, Manager of Multi-Media and On-Demand Training, is responsible for designing, implementing and delivering training programs through the Foundation Center's web site. Since joining the Foundation Center's Washington, DC office in 1998, she also served as senior training coordinator and reference librarian, and technology specialist. Prior to joining the Center, she spent over five years working in nonprofit organizations as an administrative director and as a fundraiser for the Ounce of Prevention Fund in Chicago.
Caroline is a member of the Selection Committee for The Washington Post Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management. Caroline holds a Bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan and a Master's degree in Library Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
For more information, please visit or call 406-586-6104.
Laurel Public School's Employee Wellness Program

Bette Strever
The Laurel Public School's (LPS) Employee Wellness Program's mission is "to encourage and promote the well-being of our staff through education, prevention, and district-wide programs that provide opportunities which support improvement in the elements of overall health: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, intellectual, and financial." LPS Wellness program goals for 2008-2009 included:

 Ensuring every LPS employee has the opportunity to 
  participate in the wellness program.
 Promoting an understanding of all elements of wellness.
 Maintaining high utilization of self-care and prevention
 Getting 100% of covered employees and spouses
  registered on the  school's benefit program

The LPS Wellness Program began in 2004 with an annual health fair and health risk assessments. The focus of the LPS Wellness program was on physical activity, nutrition, and fitness. These topics  stemmed from the results of the health risk assessments. LPS Wellness Program now offers a variety of health programs addressing the different elements of health. These programs include: annual health fair with free blood screenings and opportunities to acquire flu shots or other immunizations; golf scramble; discounts for relaxation massages; and lunch salad clubs. LPS Wellness Program also offers: a 60 Days of Wellness calendar; free tap dance lessons; fitness club discounts; free fitness classes for LPS employees; health newsletters; free access to Mayo Clinic's health website; and Weight Watchers meetings. 

In February 2008, the Laurel Public Schools created a MiCare Clinic.  The MiCare clinic has a physician and physician assistant come from Billing's RiverStone Health to their school two days a week. The LPS MiCare Clinic includes a basic lab. In addition, all employees and employee spouses are eligible for free health care on these days. There is no co-pay and no deductable. The MiCare Clinic also has a pharmacy that offers many free generic prescriptions.      

For more information please contact:
Bette Strever
Bette Strever
A Noteworthy Trail: Missouri Headwaters Trail System

Trail Photo The establishment of the Missouri Headwaters Trail system is the result of a cooperative effort made possible through a number of grants. Residents of the Gallatin Valley and visitors enjoy quality recreational experiences including walking, jogging, hiking, and biking on the 8.75 mile paved path which includes two bridges.

The trail runs between Missouri Headwaters State Park and Three Forks.  Mayor Gene Townsend led Three Forks in an effort to promote trails in the community. As a result, the trail is used by residents for day-to-day transportation and is also used by Three Forks Elementary School for noon-hour walking and physical education classes.

Three Forks has received recognition for their efforts, and was awarded the "Montana's Trail of the Year" in 2007 by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.  Mayor Townsend is currently working to connect Three Forks and Manhattan with a 12 mile trail.

The RHI is hosting a webinar featuring Mayor Townsend and the walking trails in Three Forks in August of 2009. Please see the article below for more information.

To learn more about the Missouri Headwaters Trail System please contact:

Mayor Gene Townsend
Upcoming RHI Webinars


Join us in August for more information on how Mayor Gene Townsend spearheaded the effort to promote the formation of trails in the community of Three Forks.

Learn ideas from Mayor Townsend on what it takes to build a fantastic trail system.  Topics will include securing funding and coordinating the design, contracting and construction of a trail system.

Mayor Townsend will discuss future plans for the trail system in Three Forks, including expansion projects to ensure that the trail system grows as the community grows.


In September, Montana Team Nutrition's Katie Bark will explain the efforts of The Farm to School Program. This initiative works with local farmers, ranchers and food service staff to feature Montana-grown food items in the school cafeterias.

The Farm to School Program also provides educational classroom learning opportunities for students. Classroom topics include: what types of food are grown in Montana; how these can be a part of a healthy diet; and how food choices affect the broader community. 
For more information on how to register for these webinars or to suggest a future webinar opportunity, please contact:
Shalina Mirza 406.994.5310

Shalina Mirza, Project Coordinator
MT AHEC & Office of Rural Health