A new advisory council in Texas is aimed at improving health care in rural parts of the state.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has announced the creation of the Texas Rural Health and Economic Development Advisory Council. The nine-member council is designed to find rural policy priorities, and review the effectiveness of the current programs.

The group is expected to develop strategic initiatives for economic and community development, health care improvement for rural communities, and to make recommendations on the use of Community Development Block Grant funding. The council will develop a Rural Policy Plan to submit to the Texas Legislature by the end of 2012.

“Twelve percent of Texas’ population lives in rural areas where there is demonstrated potential for creating jobs, advancing technology, and improving health care services and careers,” Staples said. “By exploring these and other opportunities, we will attract and nurture the talent and resources needed to improve our rural communities while also benefitting the state’s overall economy and quality of life.”

Members from this particular council will also form a Rural Health Task Force, to look at health care expansion and access in rural areas more in-depth.

State Senator Craig Estes and State Representative Chuck Hopson have been appointed to the council by Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus, respectively.

Also serving on the council are Polk County Judge John Thompson, Raymondville Mayor Orlando Correa, Uvalde City Councilman Jay Carnes, Childress City Manager Bryan Tucker, Sul Ross University Director of Nursing Education Program Donna Kuenstler, Advocacy and Communications Director Don McBeath of the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals, and Brady Community Development Director Kathi Masonheimer.

The council will meet for the first time in January of 2012.