Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

2017-2021 ACS 5-Year Estimates Data Now Available

The U.S. Census Bureau released new statistics from the 2017-2021 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-Year Estimates, now available at https://data.census.gov/. These estimates provide data for all Pennsylvania counties, municipalities, and other geographic areas regardless of population size.

Some highlights from the Pennsylvania State Date Center include:

  • Approximately 47.0% of renter households in PA spent more than 30.0% of their income on housing costs, compared to 40.0 percent of renter households nationally.
  • The counties with the highest percentage of renters experiencing a housing cost burden were Centre (58.0%), Pike (57.4%), Lawrence (52.5%), Monroe (51.9%), and Philadelphia (51.9%).
  • Between 2012-2016 and 2017-2021, 43 counties experienced a statistically significant increase in median household income.

Visit the Data Center’s Research Briefs page to read this brief and past releases.

New Rural Revitalization Podcast from the Brookings Institution Launched

Introducing Reimagine Rural, a podcast featuring rural towns experiencing positive change

While the dominant narrative regarding rural America is one of decline and division, Reimagine Rural is a new podcast that visits rural towns across the United States that are experiencing positive change and explores how public investment in rural people and places can lead to increased and equitable prosperity.  

Hosted by Tony Pipa, a scholar in the Center for Sustainable Development at the Brookings Institution and a product of rural America, each episode features local voices telling the story of progress in their community and considering the intersection with policy and public resources.   

Join Tony on this journey to visit a diverse set of towns across America to learn more about how rural communities are adapting to the 21st century. 

Episode 1 debuted on November 22.   Click here to see the list of podcasts and for information on how to subscribe.

New Rural Health Briefs Released

The Rural Health Value team recently released a new policy brief:

Medicare Shared Savings Program: Rule Changes and Implications for Rural Health Care Organizations
A summary of the changes made to the Medicare Shared Savings Program taking effect January 2023 and 2024. This Rural Health Value analysis outlines how the changes would reduce barriers to participation for potential or reentering ACOs that operate in rural contexts.

Related resources on the Rural Health Value website:

USDA Releases Rural America At A Glance Report

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the Rural America at a Glance report. The report notes a change in the composition of the rural labor force over the past decade due to an overall decline in population growth, aging of the population, and changing industry structure. Rural America has become more economically diverse over time, with increasing employment in health care, hospitality, and other service industries. There is also evidence that the rural workforce is changing in terms of diversity. The report is helpful when considering new ways to strengthen the rural health pipeline.

Improving the Oral Health of Rural Veterans

According to a new report from the American Institute of Dental Public Health (AIDPH) and CareQuest Institute, veterans in rural areas are struggling to receive oral care. Only about 15% of veterans are eligible for dental care through the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), with the percentage being even lower for rural veterans.

Learn more in the full report.

Rural America is Getting Older: A Fifth of the Population Now Over Age of 65

Rural America is continuing to get older, and a new report shows the extent has hit a new high.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual Rural America at a Glance report shows more than 20% of rural residents are over age 65 compared to 16% in urban areas.

“The aging of the baby-boom generation will continue to contribute to the loss of working-age adults through the end of this decade,” the report from the USDA’s Economic Research Service stated.

The report also said there is a corresponding decrease in the working-age population, with those 18 to 64 making up 58% of non-metro residents, compared with 61% of metro residents.

Fixing the problem will take a lot of work from a lot of different areas, said Mary Hendrickson, a professor of rural sociology at the University of Missouri.

“There’s federal issues, there are state issues, there are community issues, there are regional issues. Can we start thinking about regional networks? There really is not just one thing,” she said.

Hendrickson said rural areas need to make things better for families, and that can include such improvements as better broadband access and reliable day care and preschool options, which are not only lacking but often nonexistent in rural areas.

“If we’re going to talk about wanting to be family friendly, then we’re going to need to have some policies that are helpful,” Hendrickson said.

Some rural communities have tried creative ways to attract younger people to make their home away from urban areas, including offering grants to new homeowners and establishing recruiting committees to entice former residents to move back.

“Those kinds of programs are essential,” Henrickson said. “Folks who live in these rural areas sometimes look around and think more of the challenges rather than thinking about what are the opportunities for helping and making their place attractive for a younger generation.”

Other rural advocates caution those kinds of projects won’t be enough and argue for more systemic change at the federal level.

“We learned during COVID that many people can work from anywhere, and that gave a lot of hope to rural communities looking to increase their population,” said Chris Merritt, executive director of the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University.

“But state and federal governments need to get more involved to make sure these communities have health care, schools, transportation and grocery stores. Those things can’t happen at just the community level.”

While rural communities look to increase their younger population, they will also have to deal with new challenges of having more older residents.

“Declines in the working-age population may make it harder to meet labor demands in some rural industries and local labor markets. At the same time, many rural areas lack sufficient health care capacity, broadband service, community centers and other services to address the challenges associated with an aging population,” the USDA report said.

This story was produced in partnership with Harvest Public Media, a collaboration of public media newsrooms in the Midwest. It reports on food systems, agriculture and rural issues. Follow Harvest on Twitter: @HarvestPM.

Pennsylvania Releases Broadband Plan

The Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority released its plan which outlines the goals and strategies to expand broadband access across the Commonwealth.

The Authority, created by the legislature in December 2021, has been charged with leveraging the state’s approximate $100 million of federal funding over five years to ensure that more Pennsylvanians have access to high-speed internet. According to the Authority’s plan, the Commonwealth has roughly 640,000 to 800,000 Pennsylvanians that meet the FCC’s definition of being “unserved” and lack access to high-speed broadband.

Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority Executive Director Brandon Carson stated, “Broadband access affects every area of our lives – from work, to education, to health, and safety. Closing the digital divide helps enhance our communities and fosters economic growth and innovation for all Pennsylvanians.”

To read the Authority’s plan click here.

Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority Announces Partnership with Penn State Extension to Expand Access to High-Speed Internet

The Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority (Authority) Executive Director Brandon Carson announced that the Authority unanimously voted on November 10 to contract with Penn State Extension to develop and update state broadband maps to directly enable the commonwealth to maximize its federal funding allocation for high-speed internet expansion.

“Contracting with Penn State Extension will bring the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority one step closer to meeting its mission to expand broadband services to unserved and underserved areas of the commonwealth,” said Carson. “The services Penn State Extension will provide will help to close the digital divide and allow Pennsylvanians to get connected at home, work, or on the road.”

Through this initiative, Penn State Extension plans to develop and update state broadband maps; evaluate the accuracy of industry-provided Federal Communications Commission (FCC) data to inform the commonwealth challenge process; provide geo-analytics, data analysis, and cost estimating for fiber to the premises to support local data-driven decisions about broadband deployment; and promote digital equity in underserved populations through strategic partnerships. The project is expected to run through June 30, 2023.

Brent Hales, Penn State Extension director and associate dean in the College of Agricultural Sciences, noted that Extension enters this initiative following its successful partnership with the state Public Utility Commission to develop the map that helped Pennsylvania receive $368 million from the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which is expected to enable 327,000 Pennsylvanians to gain access to high-speed internet.

“Our partnership with the PUC has enabled Penn State Extension to better serve the people and the communities of the commonwealth,” Hales said. “We are gratified to support future investment in Pennsylvania’s broadband infrastructure and look forward to facilitating new opportunities for broadband deployment. I also want to recognize the efforts of our team and their tireless efforts and enthusiasm.”

The broadband initiative will focus on providing publicly accessible and open-source data mapping and analysis tools where stakeholders can visually identify unserved broadband areas. Additionally, the maps will make transparent current FCC broadband data, demographics, and infrastructure data to inform the challenge processes for residents of the commonwealth. Determining the correct number of unserved and underserved households in the commonwealth will be critical to determining the state’s portion of the $42.5 billion available under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for broadband deployment projects through a program called Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD). Rules for the BEAD program call for the funding to be allocated based, in large part, on each state’s percentage of unserved locations, according to updated FCC broadband maps.

Penn State Extension is an educational organization dedicated to delivering science-based information to people, businesses, and communities. Penn State Extension covers 4-H Youth Development; Agronomy and Natural Resources; Animal Systems; Energy, Business, and Community Vitality; Food Safety and Quality; Food, Families, and Health; and Horticulture.

For more information about the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority, or the Department of Community and Economic Development, visit the DCED website, and be sure to stay up-to-date with all of our agency news on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

HRSA Announces New $350 Million Initiative to Increase COVID-19 Vaccinations

HRSA will distribute funding to health centers to support community-based vaccination events and outreach focused on underserved populations

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), announced a new $350 million initiative for HRSA-supported health centers to increase COVID-19 vaccines in their communities, with a specific focus on underserved populations. This funding will support health centers administering updated COVID-19 vaccines through mobile, drive-up, walk-up, or community-based vaccination events, including working with community-based organizations, and other efforts to increase the administration of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Community health centers save lives,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “We will continue to reach, vaccinate, and protect our most vulnerable people across the country working together with community health centers and community-based organizations. We have seen COVID infections increase in prior winters, and it does not have to be that way this year. We now have updated COVID-19 vaccines to protect communities against the Omicron strain. Our message is simple: Don’t wait. Get an updated COVID-19 vaccine this fall. It’s safe and effective.”

“As community-based organizations that have built deep relationships with their patients and neighborhoods, health centers are uniquely positioned to increase COVID-19 vaccinations,” said HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson. “These funds will ensure that people who live in underserved communities have access to updated COVID-19 vaccines this winter through community-based vaccination events hosted by health care providers and organizations they trust.”

The Expanding COVID-19 Vaccination initiative will provide resources directly to health centers throughout the country to increase COVID-19 vaccinations this winter by addressing the unique access barriers experienced by the underserved populations that health centers serve. HRSA anticipates these efforts will also increase flu and childhood vaccinations through combined vaccination events. All HRSA-funded health centers, as well as health center look-alikes that received American Rescue Plan funding, will be eligible. These funds build on the previous investments made to HRSA-funded health centers to combat COVID-19 and will help even more Americans have access to updated COVID-19 vaccines. To date, health centers have administered more than 22 million vaccines in underserved communities across the country, of which 70 percent to patients of racial and ethnic minorities.

To facilitate access to COVID-19 vaccination, the initiative will foster new and strengthened coordination, with community-based organizations that provide childcare, early childhood development, housing, food, employment, education, older adult, or behavioral health services. Health centers will be encouraged to support mobile, drive-up, walk-up, or community-based vaccination events; extend operating hours, outreach, and off-site vaccination locations to expand opportunities for COVID-19 vaccination; and support  access to COVID-19 vaccination by expanding transportation, translation, education, and interpretation services.

The nearly 1,400 HRSA-funded community health centers serve as a national source of primary care in underserved communities, providing services through more than 14,000 sites across the country. They are community-based and patient-directed organizations that deliver affordable, accessible, and high-quality medical, dental, and behavioral health services to more than 30 million patients each year, with specific initiatives intended to reach people experiencing homelessness, agricultural workers, and residents of public housing.

In 2021, HRSA-funded health centers provided care for one-in-five residents in rural areas and one-in-eleven people nationwide. One-in-three health center patients are living in poverty, and nearly two-thirds are racial/ethnic minorities.

Learn more about the Health Center Program: https://bphc.hrsa.gov/about-health-centers/health-center-program-impact-growth

Read the White House FACT SHEET: Biden Administration Announces Six-Week Campaign to Get More Americans their Updated COVID-⁠19 Vaccine Before End of the Year.