In an unprecedented time like the COVID-19 pandemic, public health practitioner Mary Katherine "MK" Montgomery, MPH ’19, is offering rural communities in the United States a creative solution—a “Rural Resource Hub” to help them manage the public health crisis.
The hub is a website that provides medically relevant information for families, academic resources for students (both on and offline) and important information for local school districts and their leaders.
A rural fieldwork fellow with Harvard University’s Education Redesign Lab, Montgomery began working on the website as a way to respond to the resource disparities that exist between many urban and rural communities.
"While nearly 97 percent of urban residents have access to high-speed fixed internet service, only 65 percent of rural residents do,” said Montgomery. “This divide has long hampered rural growth — and, now, with most students and employees expected to work from home, it's also compromising daily learning and productivity.”
Nearly 60 million people in the U.S. live in rural communities, many of which were hit hard by the 2008 economic recession and are still struggling to recover. Local hospitals have closed and access to preventative medical care has been hampered by a physician shortage, leaving rural residents at high risk of complications from COVID-19.
In addressing this issue, Montgomery collaborated with leaders in rural communities across the country to build the hub and expand its outreach. She utilized her passion for empowering people living in rural areas and the training that she received at Yale School of Public Health to create the hub’s innovative design and to make sure the website addressed different needs.
An avid promoter of building a conducive education system for children, Montgomery has been a longtime advocate for providing students critical resources such as online support. Offered as a free platform, the Rural Resource Hub also connects college undergraduate mentors with K-12 students who have been affected by school closures.
"As the daughter of a single mother in rural southeastern Missouri, who also happened to be one of the only pediatricians in a 60-mile radius, I know all too well the way children in rural parts of this country often get overlooked in policies and solutions,” Montgomery said.
She hopes that the Rural Resource Hub will help bridge that resource gap and provide rural communities access to the amenities they need to soften the blow of COVID-19.
“Rural communities, like the one I am from, will have longer and harder roads to recovery from this pandemic,” said Montgomery.