Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Trends in the Prevalence of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

A review of data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System showed the prevalence of COPD has remained stable overall, but with disparities based on rural residence.  Specifically, between the years 2011 and 2021, prevalence increased for adults 75 years and older, for those living in rural areas, and for those who smoked.  Researchers suggest the COPD National Action Plan provides a comprehensive framework for COPD prevention, treatment, and management strategies. These can be tailored to address risk factors specific to various populations. In rural areas, for example, there are higher rates of smoking, history of asthma, and exposure to lung irritants, but limited access to pulmonologists.  The Rural Health Information Hub recently updated the Rural Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Toolkit, with models for effective COPD programs, issues to consider when implementing, and resources for funding and sustainability.

Read the full article here.

HHS Establishes Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Long COVID

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) made the announcement last week and invites nominations to bring perspectives from outside the government to help inform federal action.  Committee activities will focus on health equity, needing a diverse membership of persons with multidisciplinary expertise – clinical, medical, public health, behavioral health, human services, employment, data science, and research – as well as those with Long COVID experience.  Researchers and even insurers have already considered that long COVID could be “a mass disabling event” affecting economic productivity. A more recent study suggests a higher prevalence among nonmetropolitan adults. As of December 2022, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the top five states for self-reported symptoms are mostly rural: Montana, Wyoming, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Alaska.

Read the full article here.

CDC Research: Geographic Variation in Health Insurance Coverage

A new report from the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examines how health insurance coverage varies by age, state, region, and urbanization level. Using data from the 2022 National Health Interview Survey, researchers found that the percentage of uninsured adults aged 18-64 was about 14 percent for those living in both nonmetropolitan counties and large central metropolitan counties. Within the same age range, the percentage of adults with public insurance (i.e., Medicaid, CHIP, Medicare, military plans, and other government-sponsored health plans at the state level) was highest in nonmetropolitan counties, at 30 percent. This new information corresponds with historical data showing higher rates of uninsurance in rural areas and a higher rate of enrollment in public sources of coverage.

Read the full report here.

Pennsylvania Digital Equity Plan Pen for Public Comment!

The Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority (PBDA) has drafted it’s Statewide Digital Equity Plan (Plan), as is required through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Digital Equity Act. The Plan outlines the disparities in digital equity across the commonwealth, existing assets that are in place to bridge the digital equity divide, how the PBDA engaged with a diverse set of stakeholders, industry leaders, and subject matter experts, and how the PBDA will implement this plan across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

This plan would not have been possible without the dedication of the public and our stakeholders, and we look forward to continuing to partner in our mission to provide “Internet for All”.

The draft Plan is now available for review and feedback. Input on the draft Plan is vital to its success and will ensure that the PBDA has listened and incorporated experience and needs from every corner of the state. Public Comment will be open at 12PM EST, Monday November 27, 2023 and will close at 12PM EST on Monday January 8, 2024. The PBDA has identified 3 processes to submit comments, which are outlined on the PBDA Digital Equity Act website.

Lastly, the PBDA will be posting a recording that provides details on how to submit public comment on the draft Statewide Digital Equity Plan, in the coming days. There are also a number of in-person Public Comment sessions being scheduled across the commonwealth, details of each session as well as registration is also available on the PBDA site.

Please note that the PBDA is also finalizing translations of the Executive Summary into 6 other languages, which will be posted and available for review as well.

Save the date! 2024 CYSHCN Symposium – Tuesday, May 21, 2024 in Harrisburg

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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Best Western Premier, 800 East Park Drive, Harrisburg, PA 17111

Please share this announcement with your colleagues who serve children and youth with special health care needs (CYSHCN).

The Department of Health is partnering with Bridge Consulting to host the Symposium. LookforemailsfromBridgeConsulting:

More information will follow, with registration anticipated to open on Friday, March 31, 2024. There is no cost to register, but space will be limited and registration is required.
If you have any questions, email


HHS is Taking Action to Strengthen Primary Care

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) outlined the critical actions HHS has taken, and the future work planned, to ensure access to affordable, whole-person primary health care across the country in a recent issue brief (PDF). HHS also expressed its commitment and highlighted its actions to strengthen primary care in a recent article in NAM perspectives. With these publications, HHS aims to share HRSA’s department-wide efforts to strengthen primary care and spark aligned actions from federal partners and external stakeholders.

Updated Requirements for Buprenorphine Prescribing

As announced by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in January 2023, clinicians no longer need a federal waiver to prescribe buprenorphine for treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD). Clinicians are still required to register with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to prescribe controlled medications. On June 27, the DEA began to require that applicants, both new and seasoned, must affirm they have completed a new, one-time, eight-hour training when registering. Exceptions for the new training requirement are practitioners who are board certified in addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry, and those who graduated from a medical, dental, physician assistant, or advanced practice nursing school in the United States within five years of June 27, 2023. Watch this 11-minute video that explains the changes. Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) can still apply for a $3,000 payment on behalf of each provider who trained between January 1, 2019, and December 29, 2022 (when Congress eliminated the waiver requirement). Approximately $889,000 in program funding remains available for RHCs and will be paid on a first-come, first-served basis until funds are exhausted.

Send questions to

What Happens When Kids Are Given Bank Accounts, Like Pennsylvania Does for All Newborns and Adoptees?

In 2011, a San Francisco program targeting low-income families put $50 deposits into 600 children’s bank accounts. Now, 12 years later, members of that cohort have an average savings balance of $1,422, which is about 28 times that initial deposit, the Wall Street Journal reports. The program has a dual purpose: to teach smart financial habits and serve as a start to college savings. And so far, it’s been replicated in 39 states due to its success, including Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, ALL children born in 2019 and after to PA residents, including children who are adopted, have a Keystone Scholars account in their name with $100 for postsecondary education expenses. The commonwealth’s universal rollout to approximately 140,000 children each year makes Keystone Scholars the largest such program in the country to date. While the $100 is available to all eligible families, the Treasury advises parents to register their child for the program so that they can claim the funding.

Visit the Keystone Scholars website for more information on the program, including a video on how to activate a child’s account.

CVS Health Showing Strong Financial Growth

Many have been watching and waiting for the impact of CVS Health on the current healthcare system. The company’s strong financial results for the third quarter, $2.3 billion in profit, indicate it could have major impacts. Those impacts include market disruption, diversification, and innovation; ability to adapt; capture the Medicare market with announcement by CVS of Aetna’s 2024 Medicare products; a high CMS star rating; and of course, financial considerations. Being aware of and adapting to the evolving healthcare landscape is essential to remain competitive in the face of disruptive market forces.

Amazon Adds Primary Care to Prime Benefits

Over the years, Amazon has slowly continued to add exclusive offerings for its Prime members, ranging from rapid delivery to access to curated services. Last week the company announced the latest addition to Prime: access to primary care services through its One Medical platform for $9 per month. One Medical provides access to 24/7 virtual care, expedited care for common concerns such as cold symptoms and skin issues, and same- or next-day remote or in-person appointments at One Medical primary care offices. Notably, virtual care users will not have any additional costs, as the entire service is included in the membership fee. Alternatively, patients that prefer office visits can use insurance or pay out of pocket. Though One Medical is normally available to the wider public for $199, Prime Members can now get it for $99 annually, with the option to include additional members for $66 each. Amazon acquired One Medical last year in a deal valued at nearly $3.9 billion, illustrating the significant interest that the retail giant has in the healthcare delivery business and primary care.