Kelcey Rutledge feels humbled by a recent recognition Alliance for a Healthier Generation has bestowed upon him.

Throughout February, Healthier Generation is publishing a list of Black wellness leaders every week on its website in honor of Black History Month and recognizing the individuals for their work in advancing health equity in all areas of their respective communities.

“It is a high honor to be recognized, especially during the month of February,” said Rutledge. “For someone to recognize the work I’m doing as worthy of being highlighted — it’s humbling.”

Rutledge was born and raised in Madisonville. He graduated from Madisonville North Hopkins High School in 1992 and received his undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Clark Atlanta University in 1996 and an MBA from Western Kentucky University in 2000.

Rutledge said he had worked odd jobs after finishing his master’s that did not relate to his studies so he decided he would come home to figure things out.

“I moved back and then after a little while, a job opportunity opened up,” said Rutledge.

Trover Clinic, now Baptist Health Madisonville, received the Delta States Grant in 2001 from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. A new department opened to administer the grant funding and initiate activities in the community.

Rutledge started working at Baptist Health as a project specialist. In 2010, he became the director of the Delta Rural Network Project. In 2019, the program was renamed the Delta Rural Network Center.

Lorie Oglesby, vice-president of Human Resources and Education at the hospital, said Rutledge is passionate about his community and the kids he works with each day. The kids and schools connect with him, and he has brought about significant and real change in the lives of the students and their families.

“He wants every kid to know their worth, to work hard, to be their best, and to be in a place to give back to their community one day,” she said.

Delta Rural serves 131 schools in 20 counties across the rural Mississippi Delta region in western Kentucky. Its goal is to enhance the wellness culture in schools.

Delta Rural has been a community-driven process since its inception to address health issues in the community. Through support and feedback, Delta Rural has been able to offer different programs to advance the community healthcare knowledge.

Programs like medication assistance, where they distributed approximately eight million dollars of prescriptions to residents free of charge. There was a health literacy program, where Delta Rural partnered with various local health departments to educate individuals on how to better understand their healthcare needs.

Rutledge said a program Delta Rural is working on now is the Baptist Health School Wellness Initiative, which focuses on obesity and promotes wellness in schools.

“Essentially, we assist schools with the installation of a wellness leadership infrastructure,” he said.

Delta Rural works directly with the schools to build sustainable wellness groups to assess and address healthcare needs, they offer assistance with strengthening school wellness policy and do healthy lifestyle presentations.

Rutledge said Delta Rural also offers a financial incentive for schools to meet the participating requirement goals.

“It is just a little added motivation for schools to install that wellness system and to keep and maintain it,” he said.

In line with the wellness initiative, Delta Rural offers elementary schools access to Go Noodle Plus, an online suite of physical activity videos teachers can play in the classroom for students to have a physical activity break. Rutledge said there is no Go Noodle Plus for the middle and high schools because there is no standardized curriculum for academic classroom physical activity.

“We allow them to get creative and they may come up with variations of Go Noodle,” he said.

Rutledge said being able to address community health concerns and having the flexibility to shape the program to the current needs is something he enjoys.

“Something I get out of this work is feeling like we are doing work that God would be proud of,” he said.

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