Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Health Officials Battle Increase in Rural STD Rates

By Liz Carey, The Daily Yonder, June 5, 2019

Sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis can spread quickly in rural areas, where access to medical screening is harder to find and fewer people are aware of the problem.

An increase in sexually transmitted diseases across the country isn’t as surprising to health professionals as is the insight that rates of STDs are rising more in rural areas than in urban areas.

Health officials are working to educate rural residents about the dangers of unprotected sex and to make residents aware that STDs are present in their area.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report, rates for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis all increased from 2016 to 2017. Chlamydia rates rose by 6.9 percent to more than 1.7 million cases, while gonorrhea rates increased 18.6 percent to more than 555,000 case and syphilis increased by 10.5 percent to over 30,000 cases.

Recent research suggests the spread of these infections might be particularly affecting rural areas where the diseases are not as common. While STDs are generally associated with more urban areas, research across the country found that rural areas are seeing more incidents of sexually transmitted diseases.

“Compared with urban hubs, rural populations tend to have less access to public health resources, less experience with syphilis and less willingness to address it because of socially conservative views toward homosexuality and non-marital sex,” Lauren Weber said in Kaiser Health News.

In one study, “Does Core Area Theory Apply to Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Rural Environments” by Dionne Gesink published in Sexually Transmitted Diseases January edition in 2013, researchers found that some rural areas were seeing high rates of gonorrhea and syphilis infections. Gonorrhea rates were the “highest in the rural parts of the eastern coastal region of the state” while the syphilis rates were “particularly high” in the southern part of the state.

But rural communities were more likely to recover more quickly from high STD rates than some urban areas. The study authors theorized that “the communities of rural North Carolina are too small and isolated for STI epidemics to persist at endemic levels…”

Other studies showed that residents in rural areas were less likely to be screened for STDs, and that residents in higher poverty areas had higher case rates for both gonorrhea and chlamydia.

In Farmerville, Louisiana, located in Union Parrish, a community health assessment by Union General Hospital there found that sexually transmitted diseases were alarmingly high. Not only were the rates higher than the rest of the state, but the rates in some cases were higher than the rest of the country.

Union Parish has a population of about 23,000, 80 percent of whom live in rural areas, according to the U.S. Census. Union is part of the Monroe, Louisiana, metropolitan statistical area, a small MSA on the border with Arkansas. Union General’s Community Health Assessment in 2012 found that rates of syphilis and gonorrhea were increasing, particularly in black women. “For 2008, the female chlamydia rate in Union Parish (887.4 per 100,000) was higher than the State rate (790.79 per 100,000). For 2008, the female chlamydia rate in Union Parish among Black females (2421.21 per 100,000) was significantly higher than the State rate (1574.07 per 100,000),” the assessment found. The rates within Louisiana at the time put it among the top three states for sexually transmitted diseases across the board for the nation.

The hospital developed a program targeting young women to reduce STDs, teen pregnancy, low birth rates and drug and alcohol abuse. Called “It’s a Girl Thing,” the program was open to girls in middle and high school in the county. Mentors within the program met with girls in their schools once a week as well as provided them with larger programs once a month at the hospital. The programs focused on self-esteem issues, education and hygiene and helped girls develop the tools to deal with the complex issues surrounding sexual health.

Mykalia Alexander, one of the first girls to go through the program, said the program helped her to delay sexual activity until she was ready, while preparing her for life after high school.

“In a sense, it helped me become a woman. We talked about our daily struggles, our body, our self-esteem… The program really helps girls shape their values and what they want to do with their lives,” Alexander said. “Sex wise, I wasn’t active at all. There were people around me who were, but the program helped prevent me from doing that. It helped me make the right decisions.”

Alexander said it helped those girls who were in the program with her make better choices too.

“I think becoming sexually active is 50 percent your environment and 50 percent your education,” she said. “I think ‘It’s a Girl Thing’ helps to educate girls about their bodies. But it’s not just a program, it’s a support system. So it’s not just a sex and pregnancy prevention program, it goes much farther than that. It’s so much more about self-worth and self-esteem.”

Claudia Wade, program director for It’s A Girl Thing and community development manager for Union General, said the decision was made to address the issue through education.

“Lack of education is the main reason for the increase,” Wade said. “Lack of self-esteem – a lot of girls, many who come from broken families and unstable situations – it’s a pattern that they come from that’s hard to break.”

Targeting girls, she said, was decided on based on resources, and responsibility.

“It depends probably more on our reactions (as women) when a boy approaches a lady for them to take that next step forward,” Wade said. “Also it’s our responsibility to say no. It’s hard for the little girls to learn how to say no. Their self-esteem, if they know who they are and what they want in life, makes it easy.”

Since implementing the program, the rate of STDs has decreased, according to the hospital’s latest community assessment report. Teen birth rates and infant mortality rates have also declined.

To view the article, including charts and graphs, access

Governor Wolf Announces First Suicide Prevention Task Force

Governor Tom Wolf announced a first-of-its-kind, statewide Suicide Prevention Task Force to develop the state’s suicide prevention plan, a long-term strategy to reduce suicide in Pennsylvania, and let Pennsylvanians in crisis know their lives are valuable and help is available. The announcement was made by various state agencies that will be represented on the task force, Rep. Mike Schlossberg, Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, and Prevent Suicide PA.

It is vital that people with lived experience with mental health recovery and/or who have survived suicide attempts participate in this task force. To apply, get more information or to be added to the task force email distribution list, please email Caitlin Palmer,, special adviser.

AHA Rural Report Series: Focus on Integrated Behavioral Health Care

The American Hospital Association (AHA)’s Advancing Health Rural Report Series released a podcast in May 2019 on best practices in integrated behavioral health services.

As AHA, notes, rural hospitals are the cornerstones of their communities, serving as principal access points to care for the nearly 60 million people or 20 percent of Americans who live in rural areas.  Despite their importance, rural hospitals continuously confront a multitude of challenges that threaten their ability to ensure local access to care.  Hear experts talk about evidence-based programs that address behavioral health services, including Shelly Rivello, Director of Integrated Care at JC Blair Memorial Hospital, a rural hospital serving Huntingdon, PA in central Pennsylvania, who discusses the hospital’s integrated behavioral health program, The HOPE Project.

Access the podcast at

Almost $1.5M Extended in Consumer Loans to Pennsylvanians with Disabilities for Assistive Technology in 2018

Harrisburg (June 3, 2019) – Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation Celebrates Its Successes in 2018 and Releases its 2018-2019 Annual Report that Outlines the Organization’s Latest Accomplishments, Including the Publication of Funding Your Assistive Technology: A Guide to Funding Resources in Pennsylvania.

The latest accomplishments of Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation (PATF) were highlighted at a press conference held today at the Capitol Rotunda at 10:30 a.m., hosted by Nancy Murray, President of The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh/ACHIEVA and the in-coming Board President of PATF, and Susan Tachau, Chief Executive Officer of PATF.

PATF continues to achieve outstanding results for individuals with disabilities and older Pennsylvanians, helping them purchase the assistive technology (AT) devices and services they need. The program leverages a small amount of public funding into a large number of loans that strengthen our communities. In addition, the repayment of loans from past borrowers provides funding for future borrowers. Remarkably, even though PATF makes many non-traditional loans, its loan loss rate for the last year is only 2.1%, which is better than the industry nonperformance average.

Through loans valued at more than $36M ($1.5M in 2018) and with over 14,000 Pennsylvanians helped since its founding in 1998, PATF is the only Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in Pennsylvania that extends consumer loans to individuals with disabilities and their families.

At today’s press conference, PATF released its 2018-2019 Annual Report, demonstrating a continued demand for its financial products. The Report highlights the following noteworthy statistics for 2018-19:

  • 278 no-interest or low-interest consumer loans were extended worth $1.5M.
  • More than 1,178 people were helped through Information & Assistance (I&A) services.
  • 122 trainings were conducted about financial education, funding resources and assistive technology.

Nancy Murray spoke about the importance of helping people with disabilities and family members navigate the complexities of financing their AT needs. She urged everyone to pick up a copy of PATF’s new, comprehensive book, Funding Your Assistive Technology: A Guide to Funding Resources in Pennsylvania. Published in April, 454 people have already downloaded the book from PATF’s website,

Susan Tachau thanked Governor Wolf and the General Assembly for their long-standing support of PATF. She stated, “We are so grateful to the Governor and our elected officials for making it possible for PATF to help Pennsylvanians with disabilities of all ages and incomes help themselves. Most of our borrowers do not have access to conventional lending markets-and therefore, do not have access to the capital that’s needed to purchase assistive technology. We remain committed to creating programs that are meaningful and respond to our ever-changing world of technology.”

Pennsylvania policymakers spoke about their continued commitment to provide essential public and private funding for the program. Speakers included:

  • Senators Camera Bartolotta, Bob Mensch, and Christine Tartaglione; and
  • Representatives Sheryl Delozier, Patty Kim, Brandon Markosek, and Melissa Shusterman.

Additional speakers included:

  • Ms. D.J. Stemmler, PATF borrower featured in the 2018-2019 Annual Report, stated “PATF was willing to fund the van and the adaptive equipment-something most commercial banks won’t do. Without this loan, I wouldn’t have been able to continue to work.”
  • David Gates, Esq., Senior Attorney, PA Health Law Project and PATF Board member, who discussed the importance of integrating financial education into community programming and he encouraged attendance at PATF’s upcoming conference, Vision for the Future: Financial Empowerment for Individuals with Disabilities on October 3, 2019 at the Keystone Building, Harrisburg.
  • Matthew Seeley, Esq., Executive Director, PA Statewide Independent Living Council, who discussed blending PATF funding with PA Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) funds for the purchase of his van so that he could work and be active in the community.
  • Abbie Spackman and Kendra Martin, PA AgrAbility Project, who talked about PA’s AgrAbility Program, a program that helps farmers with disabilities remain in production agriculture, and their collaboration with PATF.

Nancy Murray closed the press conference by announcing that PATF was honored to be included again in the Governor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2020 in a line item called Assistive Technology Financing (or Devices), within the Department of Labor & Industry. The appropriation supports PATF’s operations on behalf of people with disabilities of all ages and incomes throughout the Commonwealth. PATF is advocating for an increase of $50,000 (total of $500,000) to support the costs associated with outreach and underwriting new loan applications and providing financial education trainings and one-on-one coaching.

About PATF

Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation (PATF), founded in 1998, provides education and financing opportunities for people with disabilities and older Pennsylvanians, helping them to acquire assistive technology devices and services that improve the quality of their lives. It is headquartered in King of Prussia, PA and uses a network of Funding Assistance Coordinators across the state to assist prospective borrowers. The organization’s website is Contact them at (888) 744-1938, or PATF is also on Facebook and Twitter.


Susan Tachau, CEO


National Human Trafficking Prevention Action Plan: Request for Input

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has mobilized toward a National Human Trafficking Prevention Action Plan, which was formally announced on April 24th by Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson during the opening session of the 21st National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect.

“Today, we are rolling out an initiative to develop a robust national human trafficking prevention action plan. We seek partnerships with states, tribes, non-government organizations, and the private sector to amplify national and local conversations on what is working to prevent human trafficking and scale out solutions. We seek to collaborate with state and county child welfare systems and researchers to reduce vulnerabilities to trafficking. We want to identify the youth in our care who are at high risk for human trafficking so that we can intervene before another child experiences the trauma of human trafficking.” – Lynn A. Johnson, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families

Request for Information

The Office on Trafficking In Persons (OTIP) welcomes input from diverse perspectives on strengthening the Nation’s efforts to prevent human trafficking at primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention levels and that impact any level in the socio-ecological model (individual, relationship, community, and societal).

OTIP seeks information on existing programs, education, and activities to prevent the human trafficking of children and adults. OTIP aims to learn more about prevention activities pertaining to sex trafficking, labor trafficking, specialized populations, domestic victims, and foreign victims of trafficking.

The feedback received will inform a national human trafficking prevention resources clearinghouse and the development of a National Human Trafficking Prevention Action Plan.

How do I submit information?

Please send comments to with the subject line “Human Trafficking Prevention” by July 31, 2019.  Contact with any questions.

Additional Information

Please share with any partners that may be interested. Thanks!

New Pre-K for Pennsylvania Report Released This Week

New Pre-K for PA Report Released This Week

This week the Pre-K for PA Campaign released a report, Ready to Succeed: Kindergarten Teachers Support Investments in High-Quality Pre-k, based on findings of a survey conducted with campaign partner PSEA. The results show resounding support for high-quality pre-k among those surveyed.

PPC President and CEO Kari King joined fellow campaign members at an event at Hamilton Elementary School in the Carlisle Area School District in Cumberland County to release the report, noting, “Investments in high-quality pre-k have a significant return on investment for our children, schools and communities. However, the state is not investing enough to ensure access for the children who need it the most.”

More than 97,000 – or 56 percent – of eligible 3- and 4-year-olds do not have access. The Pre-K for PA Campaign is calling for a $50 million increase in the 2019-20 state budget; $40 million for Pre-K Counts and $10 million for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program (HSSAP). This investment will provide access to an additional 5,500 children.

Improving Oral Health Care Services in Rural America

Improving Oral Health Care Services in Rural America.  The shortage of practicing dental professionals in rural communities is influenced by a variety of factors, especially the limited number of dentists who are able and/or willing to start a rural practice.  The archive of this hour-long presentation is now available, in which experts discuss policy recommendations in the recent report on this topic from the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services.

Supporting Rural Health: Practical Solutions for State Policymakers

Supporting Rural Health: Practical Solutions for State Policymakers.  With input from HRSA’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, the Milbank Memorial Fund presents this issue brief with findings from three regional meetings of federal and state health officials and health services researchers working on rural issues.  Case studies summarized in the brief shed light on successful models for incentivizing investment, the need for workforce development, and the need for ongoing research and policy development specifically directed toward rural health.

David B. Nash, MD, MBA, Founding Dean, Jefferson College of Population Health, has announced that the application process is now open for the 2020 Hearst Health Prize! The winner will receive a $100,000 prize in recognition of outstanding achievement in managing or improving population health. Up to two finalists will receive a cash award of $25,000 each.

The Hearst Health Prize, in partnership with the Jefferson College of Population Health (JCPH), was created to help identify and promote promising initiatives in the field that improve health outcomes. The goal is to discover, support, and showcase the work of an individual, group, or institution that has successfully implemented a population health program that has made a measurable difference.

Last year, they received over 150 impressive submissions from across the country showcasing a range of projects aimed at improving the health of populations. The 2019 winner, Sharp Transitions, was recognized at the Population Health Colloquium for its outstanding home-based palliative care program for patients with advanced and progressive chronic illness who are not ready for hospice care. Additionally, two finalists, Arkansas SAVES, and Mental health Outreach for MotherS (MOMS) Partnership® were each awarded $25,000 for their impactful programs.

Finalists will be invited to present their project during a special poster session at the Population Health Colloquium in Philadelphia, March 30-April 1, 2020. The winner of the prize will be announced during the opening session of the Population Health Colloquium on March 31, 2020.

To apply or learn more about the Hearst Health Prize visit: The deadline to submit an application is Friday, August 9, 2019, 3:00 PM (EDT)/12:00 Noon PM (PDT).

If you have any questions, please email Please share this amazing opportunity with your colleagues!