Ethnic Studies and Sociology 499/599: Learning Through Listening, Native American Issues in Rural Oregon.                       

2007 Spring Break Course




The purpose of this course is to bring together diverse community members together in order to learn about sustainable rural development in Oregon. Through listening, analysis and collaboration with different community stakeholders including: cattle ranchers, youth corrections officers, school officials, human health and service providers, chamber of commerce, high school students, seniors, extension services personnel, law enforcement officers, and tribal leaders, course participants will begin to develop a better understanding of the complex issues facing rural communities trying to achieve development. The course embodies a non‑traditional approach to learning that blurs the boundaries between teacher/ student/ community/ researcher. Stakeholders with vested interests in issues of sustainable development in the Burns and Hines communities will be invited to tell their stories to students who will later have the opportunity to reflect upon this information in a collective setting. Group processing of the information obtained through these intense listening experiences contribute to the students understanding of the issues, as presented from diverse social positions and perspectives. By the end of the week students will better understand the challenges inherent in achieving long term sustainable development in the Oregon’s rural communities.


This class was one of the best learning experiences of my life, we learned a great deal not only about the community we were researching but about ourselves.  We started out as 20 individuals who had no idea what they were up against and in the end we became a team or a family as I like to call it.  Over the course I learned to become an active listener, facilitator, presenter, recorder, and may other things.  As a group we learned a lot about the diverse and complex issues that a rural community can face, and in our case it was about a long ongoing water issue between two cultures.  I also learned that people are more for each other in a rural community, most things that happen are for the community as a whole and not for an individual; they are there for one another.  Rather than in urban areas people are always strictly thinking of themselves.



This is a picture of the amazing Crater Lake at its finest, on our way back from the trip we just had to stop and see it.   With the exception of a 20 minute intense snowball fight.




My Main Topic Of Interest: Health Issues in Rural Areas


Rural communities have been struggling to maintain adequate emergency medical services (EMS) systems for a long time.  These services are particularly important in rural areas because they often have shortages of other health care providers and the EMS system serves as their health care safety net.  There is also a shortage of professionals to provide emergency services, higher rates of uninsured people, an aging population, shorter hospital stays, and sheer distance.  Most States are now trying to recruit and retain EMS personnel to work in rural areas and make better use of existing resources.  Because health in rural areas has become increasingly worse over the past decade  

In rural areas, lack of access to preventive, routine medical, specialty and emergency services, along with older populations and higher rates of poverty, contribute to the problem.     

The American Public Health Association (APHA) published a fact sheet on health disparities in rural areas.  Some of the highlights include:

  • “Injury-related deaths are 40 percent higher in rural communities than in urban communities.”
  • “Heart disease, cancer and diabetes rates are higher in rural areas.”
  • “And even though 20 percent of people live in rural areas, only 9 percent of physicians practice in rural areas.”

The importance of addressing mental health needs in rural areas is growing.  Ideas for solutions are being proposed and used throughout the country.  Some communities are working to integrate mental health and primary care services through providing primary care doctors with additional training.  Roughly four of every five individuals seek help for a behavioral or mental health issue with their primary care physician first. “In other areas, mental health professionals’ travel once or more per week to rural communities for client appointments.”  Telemedicine is also seen by some as a part of the solution, especially for the most isolated patients.  Through this technology, mental health care providers can connect with patients from a distance.

HIV/AIDS has also become worse and has always been largely considered an urban problem.   However, HIV has spread too many rural communities in America as well.  There have been more than 49,000 AIDS cases reported in rural areas.  Sixteen states have at least 25 percent of their AIDS cases in rural areas.

One of the largest concerns is the lack of access to care and necessary services for people living with HIV/AIDS in rural areas.  Thirty eight percent of rural HIV patients see doctors who have treated fewer than 10 patients with the virus, compared to 3 percent in urban areas.  People living with HIV/AIDS in rural areas have higher rates of depression and feelings of isolation than their urban counterparts.

As you can see the health care professionals and doctors are aware of this care needed in rural areas.  Over time it is hoped that the health care of these people will decrease to even better of that from the past.

Course Syllabus


 Web Links:

Health Care in Klamath

Find Articles .Com

The National Advisory Committee

Improving Health Care for Rural Populations

Mental Health Care Issues




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