Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

ARC Unveils New 2022-2026 Strategic Plan During Annual Conference in St. Paul, Virginia

Incorporating feedback from over 1,800 Appalachian stakeholders, the new strategic plan provides a roadmap for accelerating economic growth in the Region.

During the opening plenary of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)’s annual conference in St. Paul, Virginia, Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin provided a preview of ARC’s new 2022–2026 Strategic Plan. The strategic plan, Appalachia Envisioned: A New Era of Opportunity, is expected to be formally approved by the Commission in the coming weeks.

During the plenary conversation with ARC States’ Co-Chair Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, and Moderator Chancellor Donna Price Henry of University of Virginia’s College at Wise, Federal Co-Chair Manchin emphasized that the new strategic plan reaffirms ARC’s commitment to five primary investment goals:

  1. Building Appalachian Businesses;
  2. Building Appalachia’s Workforce Ecosystem;
  3. Building Appalachia’s Infrastructure;
  4. Building Regional Culture and Tourism; and
  5. Building Community Leaders and Capacity.

While the goals reflect ARC’s perennial emphasis on economic development, they have evolved based on new insights shared from Appalachian stakeholders regarding challenges and opportunities in light of COVID-19, the ongoing substance use disorder epidemic, and economic diversification, particularly in coal-impacted communities.

“One of the most striking things about the five investment goals in our new strategic plan is they reaffirm our core mission—but those goals are reflected through a modern lens of promoting equity, innovation, sustainability and resilience into our work,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Manchin. “The new strategic plan represents the structure of ARC but allows flexibility for innovation and entrepreneurship as we move our Appalachian communities forward.”

“ARC’s strategic plan builds on Appalachia’s momentum and supports the Region’s greatest assets—natural beauty and a world-class workforce,” said ARC States’ Co-Chair Governor Ralph Northam. “I’m grateful to leaders from across the Region, including my fellow governors and Federal Co-Chair Manchin, for developing this vision. I look forward to continuing ARC’s important work to invest in the success of Appalachian communities.”

ARC’s new strategic plan is also framed around multistate and regional collaboration.

“The success of bringing this strategic plan to life is completely dependent on how well all 13 states and 420 counties in Appalachia can work collaboratively to build upon our past work to bring the Region to the next level,” said Federal Co-Chair Manchin. “We’ve seen tremendous success in improving the quality of life in the Region, but we have more work to do to bring Appalachia to socioeconomic parity with the rest of the nation. We are committed to working alongside our local, state and federal partners to innovate, partner and invest in our Appalachian Region over the next five years and beyond.”

About the Appalachian Regional Commission
The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.

2021 Pennsylvania Rural Policy Summit on Health Care Set for October 20 

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania will hold the 2021 Rural Policy Summit: Health Care on October 20 at 9 a.m. This is the third summit in the series.

“Health care access and availability in rural Pennsylvania are long-standing concerns among providers and consumers,” said Dr. Kyle C. Kopko, Director of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. “This Rural Policy Summit will be a virtual, roundtable discussion on the successes achieved and the challenges faced by rural health care facilities and programs over the years. Leaders and experts representing various rural populations and health care providers will share insights that can help inform policy and best practices on expanding access and availability.”

The summit panelists are: Thomas Kurtz, President and CEO of Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center at Windber; Dr. Omrana Pasha-Razzak, Professor of Medicine and Public Health Sciences and Attending Physician, Division of Hospital Medicine at Penn State Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine; Joanne Corte Grossi, AARP Pennsylvania State President; and Steven Ross, Special Assistant to the Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.

The series is being cohosted by the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, Pennsylvania Rural Development Council, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Pennsylvania Downtown Center, and Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank’s Community Development and Regional Outreach Department.

The Rural Policy Summit will be held via Zoom webinar. Attendees are asked to please register in advance at

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania is a bipartisan, bicameral legislative agency that serves as a resource for rural policy within the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The Center works with the legislature, educators, state and federal executive branch agencies, and national, statewide, regional and local organizations to maximize resources and strategies that can better serve Pennsylvania’s nearly 3.4 million rural residents. 

20 Years Later: Research Highlights Ongoing Health Impacts of 9/11

The nation recently paused to reflect on the events of September 11, 2001, and on those we lost on that tragic day. Even though two decades have passed since 9/11, that day, and the months afterward, continue to impact the physical and mental health of hundreds of thousands of people who rushed to help and whose daily lives exposed them to the dust cloud and toxins.

As director of NIOSH, I serve as administrator of the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program, which provides expert medical monitoring and treatment to those directly affected by the 9/11 attacks in New York, the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Currently, more than 112,000 responder and survivor members are enrolled in the WTC Health Program. Over 65,000 of our members are certified with at least one WTC-related health condition. Some of the most common conditions we’re seeing in people are chronic rhinosinusitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, many types of cancer, asthma, sleep apnea, post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, and depression.

To support our mission and provide the best possible care to members, the WTC Health Program funds research on physical and mental health conditions that may be related to the 9/11 attacks. Research aimed to improve the diagnosis and treatment of existing WTC-related health conditions is also funded. We also support the WTC Health Registry, run by the New York City Health Department, which has tracked and investigated the health of those affected by 9/11 since 2002. Through this work, the WTC Health Program highlights the extensive ongoing health impact on the exposed population. It also shows the importance of continued research funding for 9/11-related health care, especially as the affected population ages.

Read more.

Flu Vaccine Resources: Information for Partners

Every year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) takes action to protect the health and safety of our nation’s patients and providers to help keep you updated on the latest influenza (flu) vaccine resources from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones against flu is to get a flu vaccine every year, especially since flu viruses are constantly changing and the flu vaccines may be updated from one season to the next. Flu is a contagious respiratory disease that can lead to serious illness, hospitalization, or even death especially for those 65 and older. CDC recommends everyone six months and older get an annual flu vaccine. This year the flu vaccination is critical due to the ongoing COVID-10 pandemic.  Co-administration of the flu and COVID-19 vaccines are possible so if you have not yet received your COVID-19 vaccine, please be sure to do so.

With information coming from many different sources, CMS has summarized resources and materials to help you communicate with the people that you serve including:

You can find these and more resources on the CMS Flu Vaccine page and Flu Vaccine and Partner Toolkit page.

Please share these materials, bookmark the page, and check back often for the most up-to-date information. We look forward to working with you to encourage our beneficiaries and consumers –especially those with chronic conditions – to protect themselves and their loved ones from flu.

Flu vaccines are offered in many doctors’ offices and clinics. Flu vaccine is available in many other locations, including health departments, pharmacies, urgent care clinics, health centers, and travel clinics. Vaccines may also be offered at your school, college health center, or workplace. Visit: at to find a flu or COVID-19 vaccination clinic near you.

Federal Administration Advances Key Protections Against Surprise Medical Bills

The Biden-Harris Administration, through the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor (DOL), Treasury (collectively, the Departments), and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued an interim final rule with comment period to further implement the No Surprises Act – a consumer protection law that helps curb the practice of surprise medical billing.

This rule details a process that will take patients out of the middle of payment disputes, provides a transparent process to settle out-of-network (OON) rates between providers and payers, and outlines requirements for health care cost estimates for uninsured (or self-pay) individuals. Other consumer protections in the rule include a payment dispute resolution process for uninsured or self-pay individuals. It also adds protections in the external review process so that individuals with job-based or individual health plans can dispute denied payment for certain claims.

Guide to State Policies for Mental Health

The National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors present three resource guides for mental health, including a section for rural communities.  The resource guide for Topic A covers bed registries and services for behavioral health crises; Topic B gives guidelines on diversion from jail; and Topic C provides resources for improving mental health services within jails.

Household Food Security in the U.S. Last Year

The Economic Research Service (ERS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its annual report on access to adequate food for households in the U.S.  The survey data collected in December 2020 showed an estimated 89.5 percent of households had food access throughout the year, a number not significantly different from the same survey taken at the end of 2019.  The prevalence of very low food security for rural areas, 4.5 percent, was slightly higher than the national average of 3.9 percent.

RAND Weighs in on Vaccine Hesitancy

The RAND Corporation is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization that researches and analyzes public policy.  Their recommendations promote the World Health Organization’s “three Cs” model: 1) boosting confidence in the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, 2) combating complacency about the pandemic, and 3) increasing the convenience of getting vaccinated.  Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited data showing lower COVID-19 vaccination coverage in rural areas.

ONC: Challenges to Interoperability

The ability to exchange electronic health data between facilities, known as interoperability, is essential to the long-term goals of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC). This report examines the challenges for acute care hospitals – including rural hospitals and Critical Access Hospitals – exchanging electronic health information with public health agencies.  The report uses data collected in 2019 and identifies ongoing barriers that may have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

CDC: Overdose Deaths Up by a Third

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the latest data on reported deaths due to overdose within the 50 states and the District of Columbia.  While final counts are not yet complete, 90,133 deaths occurred between February 2020 and February 2021, an increase of more than 30 percent over the previous year. Read more here.