As a large and still relatively new funder, Helmsley has had the opportunity to take a broad look at the healthcare ecosystem across the rural Midwest with an eye to identifying innovative methods to address longstanding and intractable challenges. We fund numerous research initiatives that seek to build a better understanding of the current health landscape, as well as those focused on educating policymakers and healthcare systems on the potential impact of new models of healthcare delivery and training.

Public Policy and Education

To better understand how healthcare policy and regulations impact rural Americans, Helmsley funds partner organizations to study current policy topics and disseminate findings. Many projects include a research or an external review component to learn about and prove innovative delivery methods or models to educate policymakers and healthcare systems.  

Healthcare Disparities

Helmsley strives to help decrease healthcare disparities and increase access to services across the region served by the Rural Healthcare Program through innovative methods. The American Indian population in the Northern Plains suffers from among the worst health disparities in the nation. Death rates due to diabetes, alcoholism, unintentional injuries, cancer, and infant mortality are all significantly greater in this population. In addition, over 40 percent of this population lives at or below the federal poverty level as compared to 15 percent for the general U.S. population. As a necessary step in helping to improve health disparities they face, Helmsley funded a toolkit to assist American Indian tribes with self determination of their healthcare. Helmsley has also funded an American Indian Public Health Resource Center and endowed a scholarship for the American Indian Master of Public Health program, both at North Dakota State University.

South Dakota Health Survey

To gain a current and complete picture of health in South Dakota, Helmsley funded “Focus on South Dakota: A Picture of Health.” This survey was designed to gather high-quality, statewide data to assess the use of and access to healthcare services, the prevalence of various mental and behavioral health conditions in the population, and identify key barriers to access to care in South Dakota—especially in rural communities. Prior to the completion of this survey, no accurate estimate or baseline existed that assessed all healthcare needs, including unmet mental health needs, in rural areas. This information is needed to instigate communication and cooperation among stakeholders, prioritize projects, implement effective services, and have an impact on rural healthcare. Read the full report.