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National Rural Health Day, looking forward to the Lights of the Ozarks


National Rural Health Day

Today is National Rural Health Day, an opportunity for health systems and government agencies to highlight the successes and challenges of providing rural health care.  The American Heart Association reports people in rural areas in the United States tend to have shorter lives than people in urban areas who have greater access to health care.  Jennifer Conner, vice president of rural health for the American Heart Association said that where you live shouldn’t determine if you live:

“And we know that research shows that your ZIP Code matters, specifically in Arkansas, Wyoming, New Mexico, all the southwest states that we know that can be anywhere from five to 10 year mortality difference. If you’re in a rural versus urban area, you can have a 10-year difference in your lifespan,” Conner said.

Conner, an Arkansas native, said reducing gaps in healthcare and life expectancy begins with listening.

“If we get infrastructure there, we get the comfort there, I think that telemedicine and telehealth may be one of our solutions," she said. "We’re in a predominately agricultural state in Arkansas — now that doesn’t mean that we grow fresh fruits and vegetables, but we are looking at food distribution options and how we can get some of those fresh fruits and vegetables into our areas."

We’ll feature a longer conversation with Conner about rural health challenges and opportunities on Ozarks at Large tomorrow.

The Center for Ethics in Journalism hosts panel discussion on reporting violence in the news

The Center for Ethics in Journalism at the University of Arkansas will host a panel discussion tonight reporting on violence in the news. The event begins at 7 p.m. in the Alumni House on Razorback Road in Fayetteville and brings together a panel of journalists who have experience in covering violent events. The discussion is open and free to the public.

Previewing the 30th annual of the Lights of the Ozarks

Friday night marks the kickoff of the 30th annual of the Lights of the Ozarks on the Fayetteville Square. Byron Humphry is the Parks Maintenance Superintendent for the city of Fayetteville. His crew has spent the last 6 weeks preparing for the event, and he says it’s a lot different than the typical outdoor lights on a roof.

“Well, we primarily are decorating tree canopy, and so the structure is different for every tree," Humphrey said. "We try to utilize string lines to help make a structure to actually attach the string lights to without damaging the trees. That’s a bit of a skill and that’s been learned over the years for our guys that do it every year.”

The lights are an obvious highlight of the evening, but there will also be a parade, food trucks and other activities on the square that evening. Chloe Bell is the community engagement manager for Experience Fayetteville. But Chloe’s personal favorite part of the event is the letters to Santa.

“It’s just really exciting to see just the kids’ joy at such simple holiday traditions, and they really do come out in the hundreds,” Bell said.

One new element of the lights this season is car-free Friday nights. Kelly Rich is the executive director of the Downtown Fayetteville Coalition, and she says this will offer visitors from near and far a chance to make viewing the lights an evening affair.

“So we’re hoping to incentivize them to park and walk and come and shop our local businesses, hit up one of our restaurants and bars, and actually make it a full night to enjoy the lights and all of what downtown Fayetteville can offer,” Rich said.

Byron says people like Marshall Wood and other members of his crew have been installing the lights for more than a decade, and they take a lot of pride in making each year unique.

“It’s really the guys that install it and come up with the themes," Wood said. "They say, ‘you know we tried this one year and it looked good, let’s try this.’ They’re very creative and they do a great job with it.”

Festivities begin Friday night at 5 p.m., with the Lighting at 6 p.m. and the parade following that.

Boys and Girls Club of Benton County receives a new climbing wall

The 1Climb Foundation will unveil a new climbing wall at the Boys and Girls Club of Benton County tomorrow. Professional rock climber Kevin Jorgeson and so-Ill founder Dan Chancellor created 1Climb with the aim of introducing 100,000 kids to climbing. Climb Bentonville has partnered with the organization to provide children with mentorship and field trips to climbing gyms in the region. The wall in Bella Vista will be 1Climb’s 12th climbing wall opened across the country. 

Razorback volleyball's near-historic record

The 2023 Arkansas Razorback volleyball team now has the most wins in a season since the 2003 season. 10th-ranked Arkansas earned its 23rd victory of the year last night at Mississippi. Arkansas is 13-2 in the SEC, a half-game out of first place. Next up is No. 20 Florida in Barnhill Arena on Sunday afternoon.

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Kyle Kellams is KUAF's news director and host of Ozarks at Large.
Matthew Moore is senior producer for Ozarks at Large.
Jack Travis is a reporter for Ozarks at Large.
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