Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Sen. Casey Announces $7 Million in Funding for Youth Homelessness Prevention

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development will receive $7,122,756 in discretionary funding for its Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP). This program works to prevent and end youth homelessness across Pennsylvania. Sen. Casey supported this funding in the Fiscal Year 2019 and 2020 appropriations bills. The YHDP is designed to support communities in rural, suburban and urban areas to develop and implement a coordinated community approach to preventing and ending youth homelessness.

PA Department of Health: Physicians Answer Questions on COVID-19 Vaccine in New Educational Video Resource

The Pennsylvania Department of Health Acting Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Director of the Vaccine Education Center and Professor of Pediatrics Dr. Paul Offit developed a video resource for Pennsylvanians to answer questions about vaccine safety.

Anyone can access and share this video resource, which already has more than 26,000 views, on Facebook or PAcast. In this video, Dr. Johnson and Dr. Offit review the vaccine approval process through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including the Emergency Use Authorization. Pennsylvanians requested information on how reporting vaccine data through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System works to enhance vaccine safety. Additionally, discussion includes information on the increasing scientific data on the safety of vaccines for children and pregnant people. They cover another highly requested topic regarding the effectiveness of the vaccine against variants, with a highlighted focus on effectiveness against the delta variant.

USDA and HHS Launch Resource Guide to Help Rural Communities Increase Access to Child Care Services

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Justin Maxson and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Development Katie Hamm unveiled a joint resource guide to help people in rural and Tribal communities increase access to child care services.

“Access to quality, affordable child care and early learning opportunities is imperative for rural America. It enables parents to work, strengthens the economy and supports children’s overall development by laying the groundwork for future success in school and life,” Maxson said. “Under the leadership of President Biden, Vice President Harris and Secretary Vilsack, USDA remains committed to helping rural and Tribal communities build back better by strengthening child care infrastructure and by meeting the increasing demand for affordable, quality child care for working families.”

Hamm added: “The first few years of life, particularly birth to five, set the foundation for development, learning, behavior and lifelong outcomes. Various studies have shown that access to high-quality early childhood education is associated with positive life outcomes. That’s why I am so excited about this guide and the Biden-Harris Administration’s ongoing support for early learning and child care. It is so important that we continue to invest in early childhood infrastructure and supply building – particularly in rural and Tribal communities – where child care and early childhood development options are already limited. We are committed to working with these communities to meet the growing need for quality, affordable early childhood programs.”

The joint resource guide follows the Biden-Harris Administration’s announcement of the American Families Plan (AFP). The guide responds to the AFP, which targets investments to support America’s children and families – helping families cover the basic expenses that so many struggle with now, including lowering health insurance premiums and continuing the American Rescue Plan’s historic reductions in child poverty.

The guide was developed in partnership by USDA Rural Development and the Office of Early Childhood Development in HHS’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF). It provides useful information to help stakeholders in rural communities – including Tribes and Tribal organizations – address the need for improved access to affordable, high-quality child care and early learning facilities through USDA and HHS funding and technical assistance resources.

Under the Biden-Harris Administration, Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, Tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information, visit If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.

ACF promotes the economic and social well-being of families, children, individuals and communities. ACF programs aim to empower families and individuals to increase their economic independence and productivity; encourage strong, healthy, supportive communities that have a positive impact on quality of life and the development of children. For more information, visit:, and to subscribe to the Office of Early Childhood Development’s newsletter, email:

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit

Free Dental Services to be Offered at MOM-n-PA in Philadelphia

The Mission of Mercy event at Maurice H. Kornberg School of Dentistry at Temple University in Philadelphia is just days away! Doors open at 6 am on September 24th and 25th.There are no eligibility or income requirements for patients, treatment will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis. The number of patients seen will be limited to 400 patients per day. Dental services for children and adults include examinations, fillings, cleanings, extractions, root canal treatments, and limited denture care. Volunteers will also screen for HbA1C, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Click here to learn more.
Click here to view the flyer.

$15 Million Awarded to 20 States for Mobile Crisis Intervention

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) awarded $15 million in planning grants to 20 states to support expanding community-based mobile crisis intervention services for Medicaid beneficiaries. By connecting people who are experiencing a mental health or substance use disorder crisis to a behavioral health specialist or critical treatment, these services—which will be provided by funding from the American Rescue Plan (ARP)— and will be available 24 hours per day, every day of the year, can help save lives. Importantly, these services can also help to reduce the reliance on law enforcement when people are experiencing a behavioral health crisis and, in turn, may help to prevent the unnecessary incarceration of people with serious mental illness or substance use disorders.

The planning grants—funded by the ARP—provide financial resources for state Medicaid agencies to assess community needs and develop programs to bring crisis intervention services directly to individuals who are experiencing a substance use-related or mental health crisis outside a hospital or facility setting. These grants will help states integrate community-based mobile crisis intervention services into their Medicaid programs, a critical component of establishing a sustainable and public health-focused crisis support network.

“The pandemic has taken a serious toll on the mental health of Americans, especially in underserved communities,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Through these awards, the Biden-Harris Administration is making a bold investment to highlight the importance of behavioral health and ensure states can provide vital services to those hardest hit by the pandemic. This funding from the American Rescue Plan will expand access to crisis care for everyone—and reach people where they are.”

“With these grants, CMS is taking strides to connect individuals in crisis with the high-quality, expert care they need. Providing behavioral health care experts as alternatives to police is an example of how we can better help communities deliver on the behavioral health needs of all its residents,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.

The planning grants provide funding to develop, prepare for, and implement qualifying community-based mobile crisis intervention services under the Medicaid program. Grant funds can be used to support states’ assessments of their current services; strengthen capacity and information systems; ensure that services can be accessed 24 hours a day, every day of the year; provide behavioral health care training for multi-disciplinary teams; or seek technical assistance to develop State Plan Amendments (SPAs), demonstration applications, and waiver program requests under the Medicaid program.

On April 1, 2022, thanks to the ARP, all states will be eligible for a temporarily enhanced matching rate for implementing a qualified community-based mobile crisis intervention option in their Medicaid programs.

The period of performance for this grant will be from September 30, 2021, through September 29, 2022.

To view the list of CMS Award Recipients, please visit:

GAO Examines Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program

Until last year, the federal program that repays education loans for nurses required that they work only at non-profit facilities.  The pandemic-related CARES Act eliminated that restriction in March 2020, allowing Nurse Corps members to serve at for-profit critical shortage facilities (CSFs).  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined the change and determined that it’s too early to tell its effects.  Officials at non-profit CSFs such as Critical Access Hospitals expressed concern that for-profit facilities can offer higher wages, resulting in fewer nurses willing to work at non-profit CSFs in rural and other underserved areas.

The report can be accessed here:  GAO Examines Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program.

Report: Rural Health Clinic Experiences from the COVID-19 Testing Program

The National Association of Rural Health Clinics (NARHC) published a report on the federal program that funded COVID-19 testing in rural areas.  First launched in May 2020, the program sent a total of more than $225 million to eligible RHCs in almost every state.  The report captures how the RHCs used the funds, the challenges they faced, and anecdotes of their experiences.

Access the report here:  Rural Health Clinic Experiences from the COVID-19 Testing Program [pdf].

CDC Publishes State Obesity Rates

The number of states in which at least 35% of residents are obese has nearly doubled since 2018 – and disparities persist – according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Up from nine states in 2018 and 12 in 2019, the 2020 Adult Obesity Prevalence Maps show that 16 states now have an adult obesity prevalence at or above 35%: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware (new this year), Indiana, Iowa (new this year), Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio (new this year), Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas (new this year), and West Virginia.

Disparities in obesity persist

Adult obesity prevalence by race, ethnicity, and location is based on self-reported height and weight data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Combined data from 2018-2020 show notable racial and ethnic disparities. Among states and territories with sufficient data*:

  • 0 states had an obesity prevalence at or above 35% among non-Hispanic Asian residents. However, some studies have indicated that the health risks associated with obesity may occur at a lower body mass index (BMI) for some people of Asian descent.
  • 7 states had an obesity prevalence at or above 35% among non-Hispanic White residents.
  • 22 states had an obesity prevalence at or above 35% among Hispanic residents.
  • 35 states and the District of Columbia had an obesity prevalence at or above 35% among non-Hispanic Black residents.

Adults with obesity are at increased risk for many other serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and poorer mental health. Individuals should talk regularly with their healthcare provider about their body mass index, family history of chronic disease, current lifestyle, and health risks.

To change the current course of obesity will take a sustained, comprehensive effort from all parts of society. We will need to acknowledge existing health disparities and health inequities and address the social determinants of health such as poverty and lack of health care access if we are to ensure health equity. These maps help by showing where we need to focus efforts to prevent obesity and to support individuals with this disease.

Community-level data on adult obesity prevalence is available at the CDC’s PLACES website.


New Briefs! Geographic Access to Health Care for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries: An Update and National Look

Two companion studies by the WWAMI Rural Health Health Research Center, led by Eric Larson, PhD, find that rural residents travel farther for health care and often have more problems accessing care, including medical and surgical specialists, than their urban counterparts.

The first policy brief examined national utilization, generalist vs. specialty care visits, and travel time for various types of visits at national and Census Division levels for rural and urban Medicare beneficiaries in 2014. Generalist providers (generalist physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants) performed over 51.7% of all visits for rural beneficiaries (vs. 38.1% among urban beneficiaries). Rural beneficiaries also had slightly more visits per capita in 2014 than urban beneficiaries overall and within the same Census Division.

The second policy brief reports findings of a similar study conducted by the WWAMI RHRC using 1999 Medicare data from five states (AK, ID, NC, SC, WA). Findings showed that the number of visits by rural Medicare beneficiaries dropped from 9.6 visits per year in 1999 to 8.9 in 2014. The proportion of visits provided by generalist physicians to rural beneficiaries in the five states increased from 29.2% to 41.7% during the same period.

Beneficiaries from isolated small rural areas, especially Hispanic and Native American beneficiaries, experienced much longer travel times than other rural (and urban) beneficiaries. Over 25% of visits by beneficiaries from isolated small rural areas for serious conditions such as ischemic heart disease and cancer required one-way travel of more than 50 miles, taking more than one hour.

The results of both studies underscore the ongoing importance of generalist providers in rural health care and the continuing challenges of access to specialty care posed by the long distances and travel times faced by many rural residents.  Read more