PRESS RELEASE: Heartland Forward Convenes Nonpartisan Group of State Legislators and Government Officials to Announce the Launch of the Heartland Health Caucus


The Caucus will focus on addressing pressing health issues and accelerating new and consistent policy approaches across states

Bentonville, Ark – Heartland Forward joins state legislators and government officials to announce the launch of the Heartland Health Caucus, a nonpartisan legislative and policy organization comprised of health leaders across six heartland states: Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee. The Caucus serves as a forum to exchange new ideas in addressing pressing health issues and accelerating new and consistent policy approaches across states. 

The Heartland Health Caucus was launched at the Heartland Summit, Heartland Forward’s flagship event that brings together the top thinkers and doers across sectors, geographies and generations to share their collective insights on advancing the heartland – right in downtown Bentonville, AR to “Meet in the Middle”. At the Summit, 18 state legislators and representatives from Governor’s offices and Health Departments across the six states attended an official launch meeting. 

The Caucus Objectives:

  • Develop proposals to simplify the health care system by advancing state public policy and initiatives to decrease the complexities patients face in accessing health care within their communities. 
  • Advance legislation to address heartland health needs to solve for pressing issues. Initial areas of focus include: telehealth, workforce and maternal health. 
  • Champion health as an economic issue through supporting legislation, programs and thought leadership to highlight how a healthier population will lead to a robust workforce and thriving communities. 

Ross DeVol, president and CEO of Heartland Forward said: “We are thrilled to launch the Heartland Health Caucus, which will be a forum for action to improve the health care outcomes of heartland communities. The Caucus symbolizes the true meaning of a think-and-do-tank to convene and be a resource for states and local communities. The convening of the Caucus follows our recent report, Health Care Access in the Heartland. Heartland Forward is committed to utilizing our research to be a resource for on-the-ground solutions.

Rep. Ellyn Hefner, Co-Chair of the Heartland Health Caucus said: “Across Oklahoma state, I hear regularly from constituents that we must do more to solve health care challenges. I believe the time is now to take bold policy actions to improve health care outcomes and I am thrilled to join the Heartland Health Caucus to achieve real results.”

Rep. Lee Johnson, Co-Chair of the Heartland Health Caucus said: “Now is the time to improve the delivery of health services for our communities. Thank you to Heartland Forward and all the members of the Heartland Health Caucus for launching this initiative. I am excited to join the Heartland Health Caucus and get to work on these issues.” 

The Caucus is the result of a groundbreaking report by Heartland Forward, entitled: Health Care Access in the Heartland, a study on how to improve health outcomes in rural and underserved communities by improving access to care. 

The report included policy recommendations:

  • Increasing affordability and reducing complexity of the health care system.
  • Addressing health care shortages by increasing access to telehealth.
  • Bolstering the health care workforce through increasing the labor supply, streamlining occupational licensure and expanding the scope of practice.

Resources for policymakers include:

  • The Policy Roadmap lays out an agenda for policy modernization. Because of the complexity of our current health care system, there is not one policy that will fix everything. The policy roadmap suggests key pieces to start with as we solve the specific challenges and needs in rural communities.
  • The Rural Health Care Accessibility Atlas, an interactive tool where you can find detailed information on your legislative district’s health indicators.
  • The Health Care Workforce Tool, which shows the health care labor market data for 31 health care occupations in the six states studied.

Contact: Blake Woolsey


About Heartland Forward
Heartland Forward is a think and do tank dedicated to being a resource for states and local communities in the middle of the country. We do this by studying broad economic trends and building data-driven and community-tested partnerships, programs and policies to address the needs of the heartland to help change the narrative about the middle of the country and accelerate economic growth.

About the Heartland Summit
The Heartland Summit was co-founded by Olivia and Tom Walton and Steuart Walton in 2018 to kick-start economic growth and help change the narrative about the middle of the country. The Summit is a forum for frank conversation about our shared challenges, creating positive action and strengthening connections.