Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

New Report Details Broadband Access Across Pennsylvania

A new report has been released, Broadband Availability and Access in Rural Pennsylvania.  The project, funded by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania and conducted by researchers at Penn State, details broadband access across Pennsylvania and makes policy recommendations for the General Assembly to address broadband access disparities.

According to the report, over 800,000 Pennsylvania residents do not have access to broadband connectivity, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  However, recent research has documented that these official estimates are downplaying the true state of the digital divide because they rely on self-reported data by Internet Service Providers (ISPs).  Informed policy requires systematic analysis to both verify the FCC’s numbers and accurately determine the true state of broadband connectivity across Pennsylvania.  The research collected more than 11 million broadband speed tests from across Pennsylvania in 2018.  These tests measured broadband speeds in every Pennsylvania county and found that median speeds across most areas of the state do not meet the FCC’s criteria to qualify as broadband.  The main findings from these analyses have profound implications for existing and future efforts to bridge the digital divide.

The full report can be accessed on the Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s website at

Human Trafficking Resources and Training Material Available

See below for presentations, videos, and handouts on addressing human trafficking and domestic violence.


Responding to Human Trafficking

The Grantee Connection provided updates on grant to address child welfare population human trafficking.

Grants to Address Trafficking Within the Child Welfare Population: Nine 5-year grants were awarded in 2014 to develop their child welfare systems’ response to human trafficking.

Read the latest newsletter from Connecticut’s Human Anti-trafficking Response Team (HART) and a new article, Stopping Human Trafficking on the Law Enforcement Front Lines, written by and for law enforcement partners.

Learn more about this project: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and their partner, Project No Rest, have developed a video and training guide on labor trafficking.

Study Links SNAP Spending to Job Creation

By Tom Marema, The Daily Yonder, June 3, 2019

Rural counties added one job for every $10,000 in extra SNAP reimbursements during the Great Recession, says a first-of-its-kind study. Metro counties also gained jobs from SNAP, but at a lesser rate.

Increased food-assistance spending that was part of the 2009 economic stimulus package helped increase employment at the peak of the Great Recession, especially in rural areas, a first-of-its-kind study says.

During the peak and immediate aftermath of the Great Recession, nonmetropolitan counties gained one job for every $10,000 in increased snapped redemptions, said the study, which was conducted by USDA Economic Research Service.

The economic impact in metropolitan areas was measurable but not as great. Metropolitan counties saw an increase of 0.4 jobs for every $10,000 in additional SNAP redemptions during the height of the recession, according to the study.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 allotted an additional $40 billion in total SNAP benefits for low-income Americans from 2009 to 2013. The increase was enough to give each recipient an extra 13% in benefits. Part of the rationale for including increased SNAP benefits in the stimulus package was that the program would help both SNAP families and the greater economy, which would benefit from an infusion of cash-like benefits.

Previous studies have predicted that’s what happens with increased SNAP benefits. The ERS study is the first to confirm that prediction using historical economic data after the fact.

The study is also the first to look at the county-level impact of SNAP expenditures, giving economists a way to compare the economic impact in metropolitan vs. nonmetropolitan areas.

As expected, the economic impact was greater in rural areas, because the poverty rate is higher and a greater percentage of families participate in SNAP in nonmetropolitan counties.

The study controlled for other federal transfer payments, meaning the increase in employment is related to SNAP payments exclusively, not to other forms of government funding that went to individuals during the study period.

As expected, the economic impact of SNAP redemptions was less before and after the Great Recession of 2018.

The study examined three time periods – before the recession (2001-07), the recession and its immediate aftermath (2008-10), and post-recession (2011-14). Both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan counties saw statistically significant numbers of jobs created during the recession and its aftermath.

Surprisingly, while pre-recession SNAP reimbursement correlated with job-creation in nonmetro counties, in metro counties before the recession, SNAP had the opposite impact. Metro counties had a 0.2 job reduction for every $10,000 in SNAP redemptions. Researchers said that finding “is not robust” and needs further investigation.

“The main findings … — that SNAP redemptions have a positive and statistically significant impact on county-level employment, that these impacts were larger during the Great Recession than before or after it, and that the impacts were larger in nonmetro than metro counties – are robust across the models estimated,” the study stated.

The study also found that SNAP spending has a “spill over” effect. Increased SNAP reimbursements in one county were linked to job creation in adjoining counties, as well.

To view the article, including graphs and maps, visit

Health Officials Battle Increase in Rural STD Rates

By Liz Carey, The Daily Yonder, June 5, 2019

Sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis can spread quickly in rural areas, where access to medical screening is harder to find and fewer people are aware of the problem.

An increase in sexually transmitted diseases across the country isn’t as surprising to health professionals as is the insight that rates of STDs are rising more in rural areas than in urban areas.

Health officials are working to educate rural residents about the dangers of unprotected sex and to make residents aware that STDs are present in their area.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report, rates for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis all increased from 2016 to 2017. Chlamydia rates rose by 6.9 percent to more than 1.7 million cases, while gonorrhea rates increased 18.6 percent to more than 555,000 case and syphilis increased by 10.5 percent to over 30,000 cases.

Recent research suggests the spread of these infections might be particularly affecting rural areas where the diseases are not as common. While STDs are generally associated with more urban areas, research across the country found that rural areas are seeing more incidents of sexually transmitted diseases.

“Compared with urban hubs, rural populations tend to have less access to public health resources, less experience with syphilis and less willingness to address it because of socially conservative views toward homosexuality and non-marital sex,” Lauren Weber said in Kaiser Health News.

In one study, “Does Core Area Theory Apply to Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Rural Environments” by Dionne Gesink published in Sexually Transmitted Diseases January edition in 2013, researchers found that some rural areas were seeing high rates of gonorrhea and syphilis infections. Gonorrhea rates were the “highest in the rural parts of the eastern coastal region of the state” while the syphilis rates were “particularly high” in the southern part of the state.

But rural communities were more likely to recover more quickly from high STD rates than some urban areas. The study authors theorized that “the communities of rural North Carolina are too small and isolated for STI epidemics to persist at endemic levels…”

Other studies showed that residents in rural areas were less likely to be screened for STDs, and that residents in higher poverty areas had higher case rates for both gonorrhea and chlamydia.

In Farmerville, Louisiana, located in Union Parrish, a community health assessment by Union General Hospital there found that sexually transmitted diseases were alarmingly high. Not only were the rates higher than the rest of the state, but the rates in some cases were higher than the rest of the country.

Union Parish has a population of about 23,000, 80 percent of whom live in rural areas, according to the U.S. Census. Union is part of the Monroe, Louisiana, metropolitan statistical area, a small MSA on the border with Arkansas. Union General’s Community Health Assessment in 2012 found that rates of syphilis and gonorrhea were increasing, particularly in black women. “For 2008, the female chlamydia rate in Union Parish (887.4 per 100,000) was higher than the State rate (790.79 per 100,000). For 2008, the female chlamydia rate in Union Parish among Black females (2421.21 per 100,000) was significantly higher than the State rate (1574.07 per 100,000),” the assessment found. The rates within Louisiana at the time put it among the top three states for sexually transmitted diseases across the board for the nation.

The hospital developed a program targeting young women to reduce STDs, teen pregnancy, low birth rates and drug and alcohol abuse. Called “It’s a Girl Thing,” the program was open to girls in middle and high school in the county. Mentors within the program met with girls in their schools once a week as well as provided them with larger programs once a month at the hospital. The programs focused on self-esteem issues, education and hygiene and helped girls develop the tools to deal with the complex issues surrounding sexual health.

Mykalia Alexander, one of the first girls to go through the program, said the program helped her to delay sexual activity until she was ready, while preparing her for life after high school.

“In a sense, it helped me become a woman. We talked about our daily struggles, our body, our self-esteem… The program really helps girls shape their values and what they want to do with their lives,” Alexander said. “Sex wise, I wasn’t active at all. There were people around me who were, but the program helped prevent me from doing that. It helped me make the right decisions.”

Alexander said it helped those girls who were in the program with her make better choices too.

“I think becoming sexually active is 50 percent your environment and 50 percent your education,” she said. “I think ‘It’s a Girl Thing’ helps to educate girls about their bodies. But it’s not just a program, it’s a support system. So it’s not just a sex and pregnancy prevention program, it goes much farther than that. It’s so much more about self-worth and self-esteem.”

Claudia Wade, program director for It’s A Girl Thing and community development manager for Union General, said the decision was made to address the issue through education.

“Lack of education is the main reason for the increase,” Wade said. “Lack of self-esteem – a lot of girls, many who come from broken families and unstable situations – it’s a pattern that they come from that’s hard to break.”

Targeting girls, she said, was decided on based on resources, and responsibility.

“It depends probably more on our reactions (as women) when a boy approaches a lady for them to take that next step forward,” Wade said. “Also it’s our responsibility to say no. It’s hard for the little girls to learn how to say no. Their self-esteem, if they know who they are and what they want in life, makes it easy.”

Since implementing the program, the rate of STDs has decreased, according to the hospital’s latest community assessment report. Teen birth rates and infant mortality rates have also declined.

To view the article, including charts and graphs, access

Governor Wolf Announces First Suicide Prevention Task Force

Governor Tom Wolf announced a first-of-its-kind, statewide Suicide Prevention Task Force to develop the state’s suicide prevention plan, a long-term strategy to reduce suicide in Pennsylvania, and let Pennsylvanians in crisis know their lives are valuable and help is available. The announcement was made by various state agencies that will be represented on the task force, Rep. Mike Schlossberg, Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, and Prevent Suicide PA.

It is vital that people with lived experience with mental health recovery and/or who have survived suicide attempts participate in this task force. To apply, get more information or to be added to the task force email distribution list, please email Caitlin Palmer,, special adviser.

AHA Rural Report Series: Focus on Integrated Behavioral Health Care

The American Hospital Association (AHA)’s Advancing Health Rural Report Series released a podcast in May 2019 on best practices in integrated behavioral health services.

As AHA, notes, rural hospitals are the cornerstones of their communities, serving as principal access points to care for the nearly 60 million people or 20 percent of Americans who live in rural areas.  Despite their importance, rural hospitals continuously confront a multitude of challenges that threaten their ability to ensure local access to care.  Hear experts talk about evidence-based programs that address behavioral health services, including Shelly Rivello, Director of Integrated Care at JC Blair Memorial Hospital, a rural hospital serving Huntingdon, PA in central Pennsylvania, who discusses the hospital’s integrated behavioral health program, The HOPE Project.

Access the podcast at

Almost $1.5M Extended in Consumer Loans to Pennsylvanians with Disabilities for Assistive Technology in 2018

Harrisburg (June 3, 2019) – Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation Celebrates Its Successes in 2018 and Releases its 2018-2019 Annual Report that Outlines the Organization’s Latest Accomplishments, Including the Publication of Funding Your Assistive Technology: A Guide to Funding Resources in Pennsylvania.

The latest accomplishments of Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation (PATF) were highlighted at a press conference held today at the Capitol Rotunda at 10:30 a.m., hosted by Nancy Murray, President of The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh/ACHIEVA and the in-coming Board President of PATF, and Susan Tachau, Chief Executive Officer of PATF.

PATF continues to achieve outstanding results for individuals with disabilities and older Pennsylvanians, helping them purchase the assistive technology (AT) devices and services they need. The program leverages a small amount of public funding into a large number of loans that strengthen our communities. In addition, the repayment of loans from past borrowers provides funding for future borrowers. Remarkably, even though PATF makes many non-traditional loans, its loan loss rate for the last year is only 2.1%, which is better than the industry nonperformance average.

Through loans valued at more than $36M ($1.5M in 2018) and with over 14,000 Pennsylvanians helped since its founding in 1998, PATF is the only Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in Pennsylvania that extends consumer loans to individuals with disabilities and their families.

At today’s press conference, PATF released its 2018-2019 Annual Report, demonstrating a continued demand for its financial products. The Report highlights the following noteworthy statistics for 2018-19:

  • 278 no-interest or low-interest consumer loans were extended worth $1.5M.
  • More than 1,178 people were helped through Information & Assistance (I&A) services.
  • 122 trainings were conducted about financial education, funding resources and assistive technology.

Nancy Murray spoke about the importance of helping people with disabilities and family members navigate the complexities of financing their AT needs. She urged everyone to pick up a copy of PATF’s new, comprehensive book, Funding Your Assistive Technology: A Guide to Funding Resources in Pennsylvania. Published in April, 454 people have already downloaded the book from PATF’s website,

Susan Tachau thanked Governor Wolf and the General Assembly for their long-standing support of PATF. She stated, “We are so grateful to the Governor and our elected officials for making it possible for PATF to help Pennsylvanians with disabilities of all ages and incomes help themselves. Most of our borrowers do not have access to conventional lending markets-and therefore, do not have access to the capital that’s needed to purchase assistive technology. We remain committed to creating programs that are meaningful and respond to our ever-changing world of technology.”

Pennsylvania policymakers spoke about their continued commitment to provide essential public and private funding for the program. Speakers included:

  • Senators Camera Bartolotta, Bob Mensch, and Christine Tartaglione; and
  • Representatives Sheryl Delozier, Patty Kim, Brandon Markosek, and Melissa Shusterman.

Additional speakers included:

  • Ms. D.J. Stemmler, PATF borrower featured in the 2018-2019 Annual Report, stated “PATF was willing to fund the van and the adaptive equipment-something most commercial banks won’t do. Without this loan, I wouldn’t have been able to continue to work.”
  • David Gates, Esq., Senior Attorney, PA Health Law Project and PATF Board member, who discussed the importance of integrating financial education into community programming and he encouraged attendance at PATF’s upcoming conference, Vision for the Future: Financial Empowerment for Individuals with Disabilities on October 3, 2019 at the Keystone Building, Harrisburg.
  • Matthew Seeley, Esq., Executive Director, PA Statewide Independent Living Council, who discussed blending PATF funding with PA Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) funds for the purchase of his van so that he could work and be active in the community.
  • Abbie Spackman and Kendra Martin, PA AgrAbility Project, who talked about PA’s AgrAbility Program, a program that helps farmers with disabilities remain in production agriculture, and their collaboration with PATF.

Nancy Murray closed the press conference by announcing that PATF was honored to be included again in the Governor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2020 in a line item called Assistive Technology Financing (or Devices), within the Department of Labor & Industry. The appropriation supports PATF’s operations on behalf of people with disabilities of all ages and incomes throughout the Commonwealth. PATF is advocating for an increase of $50,000 (total of $500,000) to support the costs associated with outreach and underwriting new loan applications and providing financial education trainings and one-on-one coaching.

About PATF

Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation (PATF), founded in 1998, provides education and financing opportunities for people with disabilities and older Pennsylvanians, helping them to acquire assistive technology devices and services that improve the quality of their lives. It is headquartered in King of Prussia, PA and uses a network of Funding Assistance Coordinators across the state to assist prospective borrowers. The organization’s website is Contact them at (888) 744-1938, or PATF is also on Facebook and Twitter.


Susan Tachau, CEO


National Human Trafficking Prevention Action Plan: Request for Input

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has mobilized toward a National Human Trafficking Prevention Action Plan, which was formally announced on April 24th by Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson during the opening session of the 21st National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect.

“Today, we are rolling out an initiative to develop a robust national human trafficking prevention action plan. We seek partnerships with states, tribes, non-government organizations, and the private sector to amplify national and local conversations on what is working to prevent human trafficking and scale out solutions. We seek to collaborate with state and county child welfare systems and researchers to reduce vulnerabilities to trafficking. We want to identify the youth in our care who are at high risk for human trafficking so that we can intervene before another child experiences the trauma of human trafficking.” – Lynn A. Johnson, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families

Request for Information

The Office on Trafficking In Persons (OTIP) welcomes input from diverse perspectives on strengthening the Nation’s efforts to prevent human trafficking at primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention levels and that impact any level in the socio-ecological model (individual, relationship, community, and societal).

OTIP seeks information on existing programs, education, and activities to prevent the human trafficking of children and adults. OTIP aims to learn more about prevention activities pertaining to sex trafficking, labor trafficking, specialized populations, domestic victims, and foreign victims of trafficking.

The feedback received will inform a national human trafficking prevention resources clearinghouse and the development of a National Human Trafficking Prevention Action Plan.

How do I submit information?

Please send comments to with the subject line “Human Trafficking Prevention” by July 31, 2019.  Contact with any questions.

Additional Information

Please share with any partners that may be interested. Thanks!