Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

A New Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health Commissioned

VADM Jerome Adams has commissioned a Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health.  The Report is on track to be released in 2020 and will include the input of hundreds of experts and numerous organizations.  The newly commissioned report will describe key issues that currently affect oral health, and identify challenges and opportunities that have emerged since publication of the first report in 2000.

FDA’s Safety Reporting Portal

The Federal Drug Administration ‘s (FDA) online Safety Reporting Portal (SRP) is a tool that provides a standardized way for users—including consumers, health care professionals, manufacturers, and researchers—to tell the FDA about unexpected health or safety issues with various products, including e-cigarettes and other tobacco products believed to not be working properly or causing an unexpected health problem.

PA Human Services: Trump Administration SNAP Changes Jeopardize Food Access for Vulnerable Pennsylvanians

Harrisburg, PA (September 23, 2019 ) – Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller today submitted public comment to the Trump Administration opposing its proposal to drastically reduce Broad Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE) for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The changes would jeopardize food access for more than 200,000 people and would adversely affect children, seniors, and people with disabilities.

“The Wolf Administration vehemently opposes any changes that would risk more Pennsylvanians going hungry. Forcing already-struggling families to choose between putting food on their table or covering child care, rent, or other basic needs is unconscionable and traps people in a cycle of poverty,” said Secretary Miller. “We strongly oppose any and all attacks on SNAP and will continue to fight against any attempt to take the program away from Pennsylvanians who need it.”

SNAP, previously known as food stamps, helps more than 1.8 million Pennsylvanians access nutritional meals and puts food on their tables. BBCE is a policy that gives states, including Pennsylvania, the flexibility to determine appropriate income thresholds and extend SNAP benefits to low-income families and individuals who would otherwise struggle to afford food.

With BBCE, a Pennsylvania family of four is eligible for SNAP if they earn no more than about $40,000 a year. If BBCE is reduced, that family of four’s SNAP income limit will drop from about $40,000 a year to no more than $32,000 a year. For elderly single-person households, the income limit would change from approximately $24,000 a year to about $15,000. Reducing BBCE will have the direct opposite effect of promoting economic mobility and employment and will destabilize families, making it harder for them to move out of poverty.

Reducing BBCE would also jeopardize free lunches for nearly 22,600 households whose children who currently qualify. This would not only cause more students to go hungry at schools – it also risks access to programs that provide nutritious meals for children after school and during summer months.

Reduced BBCE would increase Medicaid spending and reduce long-term health outcomes due to the direct connection between food security, proper nutrition, and good health. Additionally, reduced BBCE could yield a loss of over $200- $250 million per year to Pennsylvania retailers, as purchases made through SNAP go directly back into the local economy and food providers. Over 10,000 authorized retailers participate in SNAP across Pennsylvania. These retailers redeemed about $2.6 billion in SNAP benefits in 2018 according to the United States Department of Agriculture.  

“Our mission at DHS is to help people achieve a better life without public assistance. Attacks on SNAP make it harder for us to make people’s lives better,” said Secretary Miller. “These mean-spirited changes to SNAP do nothing to help people get off public assistance. They will only increase hunger across Pennsylvania and will disproportionately impact working families, individuals with disabilities, and seniors. It is cruel and unacceptable.”

Read DHS’ comments to the Trump Administration here.

For more information on SNAP and DHS services, visit

Make sure you get counted in 2020

Make sure you get counted in 2020

By Beth O’Connor, published by the National Rural Health Association

In just a few months, the rural communities of this nation will have the once-in-a-decade chance to represent themselves alongside the hundreds of millions of folks who call America home.

On April 1, 2020, staff from the Census Bureau will fan out in communities small and large to tally all those who make their home in the United States. Surveying will occur in every corner of the country, from the remote coasts of Alaska to the Maine seaboard, from the Arizona desert to the Florida Everglades, and all points in between.

In terms of importance, being counted in the census is more essential than voting.

Casting a ballot gives people a voice in representative government by electing officials who serve locally and in Washington. The decisions made by elected officials can sometimes feel like faraway things until they impact your community or way of life.

The census may also feel like a faraway thing. But the truth is being included in the census can have a real impact on people in local communities. Having an accurate assessment of the diversity that makes up the American portrait is vital to ensure our communities receive the funding to which they are entitled.

Each year, an estimated $675 billion in federal funding is distributed to communities across the nation based on census data. That funding supports a wide range of essential programs that help provide health care, housing, education, transportation infrastructure, and so many other public services.

In states with larger rural populations, that funding is substantial. In 2016, Virginia received nearly $18 billion in census funding — an amount roughly equivalent to one-fifth of the commonwealth’s annual budget.

In many states, census funds are used to plan highway construction projects, support mass transit, and extend the electric grid in rural communities. Census dollars help fund health care for children, expectant mothers, and disabled individuals. The funds support adoption services and grants to help young people attend college and technical training.

And that’s just scratching the surface of all the vital programs the census funds.

Reading that, you might say to yourself: “That is all well and good, but what does it have to do with me and my family?”

The answer: Quite a lot.

Each person who goes uncounted in the 2020 census could result in communities missing out on thousands of dollars in annual funding. If just 10 people in your community miss being counted, that could result in $200,000 in resources shifted to another area over the next 10 years.

Studies show that millions of missing or incorrect residential addresses only compound the issue. If even a tiny fraction of people in any state go uncounted in 2020, it could result in millions in lost funding.

As a person, you have innate, intrinsic value. You matter on an individual level. That’s why it is critical for you and members of your community to be counted during the 2020 census — so your community receives the funding and support it deserves to keep it a great place to work, play, and live.

The census is a time-honored national tradition dating to 1790. Over the centuries it has endured social, political, and societal changes. What has remained constant to this day is that data collected during the census is confidential and only used to ensure federal resources are fairly allocated. So people living in rural areas, including those in traditionally marginalized or undercounted communities, should have confidence about participating in the 2020 census for the good of their families and their communities.

Undercounted is underfunded, underrepresented, and under-resourced. The message you can bring to your neighbors is simple: Get counted in the 2020 census.

Beth O’Connor is executive director of the Virginia Rural Health Association and a member of the Virginia Complete Count Commission.

Pennsylvania Partnership for Children: State of the Child 2019

Do you know how your county compares to others in Pennsylvania when it comes to child welfare, health insurance coverage, educational opportunities and other important measures of child well-being?

To help you get answers, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children has created county-based “State of the Child” profiles that provide a snapshot of each county’s data, alongside statewide data and information on counties with similar geographic profiles. For each county, you can find:

  • Child population and poverty statistics
  • Information on how many children are uninsured, and how many benefit from coverage through Medicaid or Pennsylvania’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Data on how many children benefit from subsidized child care and publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs
  • The number of children in foster care or receiving other child welfare services
  • Academic performance data for school districts, charter schools and cyber charter schools

Read here for more:

What’s the bare-minimum income a Pennsylvania household of four needs to survive? Try nearly $60,000 a year.

To survive in Pennsylvania, a family of four needs to make $59,340 a year — a hard-to-fathom, sticker-shock number that shows how expensive life has become.

That’s the finding of a recently released report by Harrisburg-based United Way of Pennsylvania.

Continue reading “What’s the bare-minimum income a Pennsylvania household of four needs to survive? Try nearly $60,000 a year.”

Comments Requested: Rural Community-Based Grant Programs

As part of HRSA’s ongoing effort to assess the extent to which their rural health grant programs are meeting the needs of rural communities, the agency has published a Request for Information seeking public comment.

Specifically, HRSA is looking looking for comments on the eligibility criteria governing the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy’s (FORHP) community-based grant programs. Does the eligibility criteria affect the rural communities’ ability to leverage FORHP grant funding? If so, how?

Your feedback may be used (without attribution) by HRSA and HHS for program planning and decision making in the future.

Send comments via email with the subject line, “Rural Health Grants Eligibility RFI.” Submissions are due no later than 11:59 p.m. EDT on November 2, 2019.

“Vaccine Hesitancy” Fuels Outbreaks

With the start of a new school year upon us, no fewer than 15 major metropolitan areas in the U.S. have “hotspots” of unvaccinated children that make them vulnerable to preventable diseases similar to the recent measles outbreak in New York City, experts warned in a recent webcast. The trend has major implications for health centers, health departments, hospitals and schools alike.

Learn more about the health effects of vaccine opposition

Helping Emergency Rooms Prepare for Kids in Crisis

At a time when increasing numbers of children are showing up in emergency rooms with mental health issues, less than half of the nation’s hospitals have written protocols in place for care coordination and management of kids in crisis – and that number falls to about a third in rural areas, two senior HRSA leaders reported in a recent webcast.

Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among young people, age 10 to 19 years old. And absent immediate intervention, the risk of a suicide attempt or death by self-harm is highest within 30 days of discharge from an emergency department.

Those findings are the impetus behind a new HRSA toolkit to help emergency room staff manage young people in psychiatric distress, said Associate Administrators Dr. Michael Warren and Tom Morris.

Learn more about the new toolkit.

HRSA Releases Inaugural Report of Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program AIDS Drug Assistance Program Client-Level Data

HRSA’s HIV/AIDS Bureau (HAB) this week released the first report on national Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program AIDS Drug Assistance Program client-level data. The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) Annual Client-Level Data Report 2017 (PDF – 659 KB) is the inaugural publication of data submitted through the ADAP Data Report system. The data describe the demographic characteristics of clients accessing ADAP services and the ADAP-funded services used. Data are included for 2014 through 2017, nationally and by state/territory.

This report provides a deeper look at service utilization, demographic, and socioeconomic factors among clients served by RWHAP ADAP. The report also includes client-level data based on age, race/ethnicity, federal poverty level, and health care coverage.