Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

CDC Launches New Health Equity in Cancer Website

The new Health Equity in Cancer website features CDC’s health equity work in cancer prevention and control. The site also focuses on disadvantages some groups of people face in preventing cancer. Health equity in cancer is when everyone has an equal opportunity to prevent cancer, find it early, and get good treatment and follow-up after treatment is completed.

CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program is a champion for health equity. Its purpose is to support access to screening for people who are medically underserved and have low incomes.

NEW: Accessibility for People with Limited English Proficiency

Many public health agencies and healthcare systems use websites and other digital platforms (e.g., social media, videos, podcasts) to provide information and services to the public. Limited English proficiency should not prevent people from accessing these resources.

Improving Access to Public Websites and Digital Services for Limited English Proficient (LEP) Persons is a new and valuable publication filled with best practices that can help you break down digital barriers for people whose primary language is not English. The publication also shows examples of websites, site navigation patterns, language selectors, and more. Use this resource to ensure that people with LEP can access your information and services.

In Pennsylvania: LGBTQ+ Cancer Screening Disaparities

According to the 2020 Pennsylvania LGBTQ+ Health Needs Assessment, many LGBTQ+ individuals never receive proper cancer screening services. For example, compared to the general population, LGBTQ+ individuals eligible for pap smears were more than 3 times as likely to never have one. A resource that is available to address this need is the PA Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (PA-BCCEDP), a program that provides free breast and cervical cancer screening to those who qualify including Pap tests, HPV tests, mammograms, and follow-up diagnostics for abnormal screening results. Clients must have income less than 250% of the federal poverty income guidelines, be uninsured or underinsured (high co-pays or deductibles) and live in Pennsylvania.

The age range for breast services is 40-64 and cervical services is 21-64. Younger high-risk clients may also be eligible. Transgender individuals may also be eligible. PA-BCCEDP does not cover the costs of HPV vaccines; however, the HPV vaccine is cervical cancer prevention. The vaccine is nearly 100% effective in preventing HPV-related cancers; it is recommended for ages 11-12 and is available for people up to 45 with clinician recommendation. Free HPV vaccines may be available for up to age 18 through the Pennsylvania Vaccines for Children Program. For more information regarding LGBTQ+ populations and cancer planning, please visit the National LGBT Cancer Network website.

Health Plans Can No Longer Impose Cost Sharing for Follow-up Colonoscopy

The policy loophole that allowed patients to be charged for colonoscopy following a positive non-colonoscopy screening text has been plugged. On January 10, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Treasury issued FAQs regarding coverage of colonoscopies pursuant to USPSTF recommendations. The FAQ specifies that plans are required to cover without cost-sharing, a follow-up colonoscopy performed to evaluate a positive non-invasive stool-based screening test or direct visualization test. Plans and issuers must provide coverage without cost sharing for plan or policy years beginning on or after May 31, 2022.

There are some limitations, to find out more visit View the FAQs (see questions seven and eight on pages 11-12). You can also visit the American Cancer Society’s CAN press release to learn more at: New Guidance from Administration Helps Ensure Coverage for Follow-up Colonoscopies, Will Save Lives from Colon Cancer.

Rural Hospitals that Closed between 2017‐20: Profitability and Liquidity in the Year Before Closure

Researchers at the North Carolina Rural Health Research and Policy Analysis Center used data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Healthcare Cost Report Information System to compare the pre-closure profitability of rural hospitals that closed between 2017 and 2020 with the performance of rural hospitals that remained open.

Click here to read the results of the analysis:  Rural Hospitals that Closed between 2017‐20: Profitability and Liquidity in the Year Before Closure

New Research Brief: The High Performing Rural Health System

This brief presents the Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI) Health Panel’s vision for a high-performing rural health system and specific pillars of such a system. The RUPRI Health Panel envisions rural health services that are affordable and accessible for all rural residents through a sustainable health system that delivers high quality, high value services. A high-performing rural health system informed by the needs of each unique rural community and population groups will improve community health and well-being.

Click here to access the brief:  High Performing Rural Health System.


Updated Materials Available – Visiting Nursing Homes During Omicron Surge

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has updated our Nursing Home Resource Center with two new informational products.

As of January 6, 2022, the Nursing Home Visitation FAQs have been updated to provide additional guidance about visitation during the Omicron surge. CMS has also created an infographic to graphically represent how to safely conduct visits to nursing homes during this time of spiking COVID cases around the country. These two new resources are available for nursing home providers, patients, caregivers, and CMS partners to stay informed about CMS’ latest thinking for keeping nursing homes safe in the current COVID climate.

USDA Seeks Applications to Improve Rural Transportation Systems

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small today announced that USDA is accepting applications to enhance the operation of rural transportation systems. These investments in rural transportation build opportunity and prosperity for the people who live in rural communities by connecting them to economic resources they may not otherwise be able to access.

The grants are part of the Rural Business Development program Eligible applicants are qualified national organizations seeking to provide rural communities with training and technical assistance to improve passenger transportation services and facilities. USDA does not provide funding directly to individuals under this program.

USDA is offering priority points to projects that advance key priorities under the Biden-Harris Administration to help communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, advance equity and combat climate change. These extra points will increase the likelihood of funding for projects seeking to address these critical challenges in rural America.

Applications will be scored, reviewed, and selected on a competitive basis. Applications must be submitted to the applicant’s nearest USDA office by April 14, 2022, at 4:30 p.m. local time.

Four Years Later: Pennsylvania Opioid Disaster Declaration Continues to Open Doors for Progress, Treatment, and Recovery

Much like COVID-19, the prescription opioid and heroin overdose epidemic continues to plague the public health of Pennsylvania. It affects individuals across the commonwealth — from big cities to rural communities.

Every day, Pennsylvania loses 14 Pennsylvanians to substance use disorder overdoses. Preliminary numbers show there have been 5,063 drug overdose deaths reported for 2020 through July 21, 2021. In comparison, Pennsylvania saw 4,458 drug overdose deaths in 2019. Recent statistics reveal that 2020 ranks second to 2017, in which there were 5,403 overdose deaths, the most overdose deaths in a single year since the opioid epidemic began.

Pennsylvania Governor Wolf’s administration has made the fight against opioid use disorder a top priority by taking an all-hands-on deck approach to prevent the disease from happening, rescuing those suffering, and getting Pennsylvanians into treatment. Since Governor Wolf took office, he and his administration have worked with the General Assembly to take aggressive steps to combat opioids, making Pennsylvania a national leader in the fight. Governor Wolf first signed the opioid disaster declaration in January 2018 to help the commonwealth fight the deadly opioid and heroin epidemic and renewed the declaration 15 times, most recently on August 4, 2021.

As the commonwealth continues to fight this battle, It’s important to know where to get treatment and resources. Preventing overdose death and finding treatment options are the first steps to recovery.

The Risk of Prescription Opioids

Prescription opioids can be an important part of treatment for pain, but they also come with serious side effects and risks. It is important to consider the risks and talk to your health care provider about your options. Physical tolerance and dependence, addiction, and death from overdose are some of the serious risks associated with opioids. These risks are specifically associated with long-term use, but can happen anytime.

Finding Treatment

Call the Get Help Now hotline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
If you or someone you know are suffering from substance use disorder, help is available. Call the Get Help Now hotline for information about treatment resources. Your call is confidential. The hotline is staffed by trained professionals 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is available in both English and Spanish.

Find County Treatment Programs

Local treatment programs are administered through county drug and alcohol offices called Single County Authorities. These programs can help with treatment funding, assessing the need for treatment, and making referrals to match treatment and/or service needs.

Find a Treatment Provider

You can reach out directly to a treatment provider for treatment. A treatment provider or facility provides treatment options for those suffering from substance use disorder.

Centers of Excellence

Centers of Excellence, created by the Wolf Administration in 2016, are designed to get more people into treatment and keep them engaged in their care. The centers coordinate care for people with Medicaid and, to date, more than 40,000 Pennsylvanians have engaged with the 60 centers to receive treatment. Treatment is team-based and “whole person” focused with the explicit goal of integrating behavioral health and primary care.

Get Naloxone: It Can Save a Life

Naloxone is a medication that can reverse an overdose caused by an opioid drug (prescription pain medication or heroin). When given during an overdose, naloxone blocks the effects of opioids on the brain and restores breathing within two to eight minutes. Naloxone is safe to use and has no potential for abuse.

Family members and friends can access naloxone by:

  • Obtaining a prescription from their family doctor
  • Using the standing order issued by Acting Physician General Denise A. Johnson. To use the standing order, print it and take it to the pharmacy or have the digital version on your phone.

What type of Naloxone is available?

Two of the most common ways naloxone is administered are intranasal (nasal spray) and auto-injector.

  • Intranasal has two pieces that are easily assembled: a prefilled medication tube and an atomization device, which is sold separately.
  • The auto-injector comes in a manufactured dosage form (similar to an EpiPen) and has a recorded message to talk you through giving the medication.

* Please note, not all pharmacies have both forms, and insurance coverage can vary depending on the type of medication being purchased and each individual insurance plan.

How do I administer Naloxone?

Help for Families

It’s not easy supporting a loved one with substance use disorder or dealing with the many challenges that come along with it. You are not alone. Resources are here to help you.

Support Resources

PA KinConnector

As a result of the opioid crisis, more grandparents and extended relatives are raising children in Pennsylvania. PA KinConnector was created to connect grandparents and other caregiver relatives to local, state, and federal resources, including physical and mental health services, health care coverage, school enrollment help, support groups, financial assistance, legal aid, and more.

Drug Take-Back Boxes

The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), in partnership with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, the Office of the Attorney General, the National Guard, and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, spearheaded an expanded prescription drug take-back box program placing hundreds of take-back boxes across all 67 of Pennsylvania’s counties. Since it’s inception, more than 500 tons of prescription drugs have been collected and safely discarded by the program.

Race and Ethnicity in Pennsylvania: Comparisons and Trends

The latest brief from the Pennsylvania State Data Center explores trends in race and ethnicity from the 2020 Census P.L. 94-171 Redistricting Data, with comparisons to 2010. The data show that the Commonwealth is more racially and ethnically diverse than last decade, with a considerable increase in the population that is multiracial, or “Two or More Races.”  The Bureau notes that these changes are due in part to improvements and changes in how race and ethnicity are measured.

For more information on racial and ethnic trends in Pennsylvania, click here to read the full brief and click here for interactive map.