HHS Invests Nearly $60 Million to Strengthen Health Care Workforce and Improve Access to Care in Rural Communities

Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), announced investments of nearly $60 million to grow the health workforce and increase access to quality health care in rural communities, including nearly $46 million in funding from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to improving health outcomes and promoting health equity in rural America. In 2021, thanks to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, the Department of Health and Human Services invested over $16 billion to strengthen rural health – PDF.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to ensuring all Americans have access to high-quality, affordable health care – no matter where anyone lives,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we have significantly improved access to health care for the millions of families who live in rural America. Our work doesn’t stop here: with these funds, we can continue working to ensure rural communities have the support they need.”

Nearly $46 million in American Rescue Plan funding will support 31 awardees to expand health care capacity in rural and tribal communities through health care job development, training, and placement. This funding includes support for critical health workforce needs in rural areas such as dental hygienists, medical or dental assistants, community-based doulas, and other frontline health care workers.

Nearly $10 million will support 13 organizations through the Rural Residency Planning and Development Program to establish new medical residency programs in rural communities to increase the number of physicians training in rural settings. In addition, nearly $4 million will support 18 awards to improve patient health outcomes and quality and delivery of care throughout rural counties and improve access to care for rural veterans.

“Among the most important steps we can take to improve access to health care in rural communities, including access to behavioral health care, is to invest in growing the rural health care workforce,” said HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson. “Today’s announcements are another important part of the Health Resources and Services Administration’s strategy to advance health equity for the nearly 65 million people who call rural areas home.”

Nearly one in five Americans lives in a rural area, and rural communities are becoming even more diverse. However, health disparities between rural and urban areas tripled between 1999 and 2019, with rural residents experiencing higher rates of heart disease, respiratory disease, cancer, stroke, unintentional injury, and suicide; and higher risk of maternal morbidity and mortality. Access to quality health care is at the heart of these issues.

Today’s announcement reflects HRSA’s investments through the following programs:

  • The Rural Public Health Workforce Training Network Program is awarding nearly $46 million to 31 community-based organizations to expand public health clinical and operational capacity through workforce development. Additionally, a technical assistance provider was awarded $500,000 to strengthen the ability for these networks to develop formal training and certification programs.
  • The Rural Residency Planning and Development Program is awarding $9.7 million to 13 organizations to establish new rural residency programs in rural communities to train resident physicians in rural clinical settings.
  • The Small Health Care Provider Quality Improvement Program is awarding $2.9 million to 15 community-based organizations improve patient health outcomes and quality and delivery of care throughout rural counties.
  • The Rural Veterans Health Access Program is awarding nearly $1 million to 3 organizations to improve access to health care services for veterans living in rural areas. This program is a collaboration between FORHP and the Veterans Health Administration to strengthen partnerships between rural health providers and the VA system.

For a complete list of recipients, see https://www.hrsa.gov/rural-health/grants/rural-community/fy2022-awards.

Learn more about the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy and its impact on rural communities.

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