Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

National Health Service Corps Students to Service Loan Repayment Program Open to Final-Year Medical, Dental Students

The 2020 National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Students to Service (S2S) Loan Repayment Program (LRP) application cycle is open. Medical and dental students in their final year of school can receive awards of up to $120,000 in exchange for a three-year commitment providing primary care services at NHSC-approved sites in high-need areas. Review the 2020 Application and Program Guidance (PDF – 1.2 MB) for more information on how to apply. The NHSC S2S LRP application cycle closes on October 31, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. EDT.

2018 National Survey of Children’s Health Data to be Released October 7

HRSA will release 2018 data from the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) on October 7. The NSCH provides the latest national and state-level data on the health and health care needs of children as well as information about their families and communities.

Survey topics include children’s:

  • Physical and mental health,
  • Health insurance status,
  • Access and utilization of health care services, including
    • Receipt of preventive and specialty care, and
    • Care in a patient-centered medical home,
  • Services to support transition to adult health care for adolescents,
  • Lifetime exposure to adverse childhood experiences, and more.

The NSCH is funded and directed by HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, which oversees sampling, survey administration, and production of a final data set for public use.

Learn more about the National Survey of Children’s Health.

As Rural Groceries Fade Away, Lawmakers Wonder Whether to Act

Jill Schramm/Minot Daily News via AP

Nancy McCloud did not have any food industry bona fides. She had never worked in a grocery store; not even a restaurant. And yet three years ago, when her local grocery in central New Mexico closed, she wanted to offer the community (population: 863) the fresh foods they otherwise would have to travel 47 miles to get.

Mountainair, New Mexico, is a popular tourist stop because of its proximity to 17th century ruins that harken to the earliest contact between Pueblo Indians and Spanish colonials. It’s known as the “gateway to ancient cities.” But without a grocery store, McCloud feared Mountainair might become another relic of the past.

“When you have a small rural town and the grocery store dies, the town dries up and it just blows away,” said McCloud, who revived B Street Market in 2017 and became its owner. “There are six towns east of here — they just lost the grocery store, then they lost the gas station, and then they lost the bank and now they’re nothing.”

Some states are trying to tackle their rural grocery gaps. Supporters of such efforts point to tax incentives and subsidies at various levels of government that have enabled superstores to service larger areas and squeeze out local independent grocers. Now, dollar stores are opening in rural regions and offering items at lower prices, posing direct competition to local groceries.

Critics see that development as a threat to public health, since dollar stores typically lack quality meat and fresh produce.

But every town and every store is different, making statewide solutions elusive. Some legislators say they are reluctant to intervene too heavily because the market should close the gaps.

In North Dakota, a legislative panel is studying rural food distribution and transportation amid a steep decline in the number of groceries serving rural areas. The committee is considering whether there are public policies that could work, said state Rep. Thomas Beadle, a Republican committee member. But Beadle hopes consumers will organize and solve problems on their own.

“North Dakota is a red-leaning state,” Beadle said. “We’re much more free market than having government intervention. It really would take a drastic instance for the state to step in.”

State Sen. Jim Dotzenrod, a Democratic committee member, said legislators are trying to understand the scope of the problem and whether they can do anything about it.

“One of the things we’re trying to decide is, are there state resources that are currently in place that could be of some value, whether it’s storage or transportation or things like that,” Dotzenrod said. “It may be when we’re done with this, we’ll have to say we don’t have a solution at hand. But I’m hoping that we can come up with some ideas that will help.”

Read the entire article here.

World Cavity-Free Day 2019

World Cavity-Free Day is October 14, 2019. This initiative was launched by the Alliance for a Cavity-Free Future in 2016. Use the 2019 resource pack to find family resources, professional resources, posters, images, infographics, a toolkit, and background information to promote World Cavity-Free Day in your area.   Click here to view the resource pack.

Continuing Education Credits Offered for Continuing Awareness

Staying up to date on alerts sent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now a way for clinicians to earn Continuing Education credits.  The most recent alerts for which the credits are offered provide up-to-date information and guidance from the CDC on transmission of HIV, care for homeless persons who are at risk of contracting Hepatitis A, and Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections – all conditions that have been related to needle-sharing behavior.  The credits are offered through a CDC partnership with Medscape, a website providing news and resources for health professionals.  The CE credits can be accessed here.

CMS Issues Final Rule on Discharge Planning Requirements for Hospitals, CAHs, and HHAs

On September 26, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule updating regulations for hospitals, Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs), and home health agencies (HHAs) on the transition from acute care into post-acute care (PAC), a process called “discharge planning.” For CAHs, the final rule adds a new, separate condition of participation (CoP) specific to discharge planning. The new regulatory language outlines the standards for the discharge planning process, beginning with identifying those patients (at an early stage of hospitalization) likely to suffer adverse health consequences upon discharge in the absence of adequate discharge planning. Detail on the specific requirements is provided in the Federal Register. These regulations will go into effect on November 29, 2019.

CMS Issues Omnibus Burden Reduction Final Rule

On September 26, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule to remove or update Medicare regulations the agency has identified as unnecessary, obsolete, or excessively burdensome on hospitals and other healthcare providers. This includes regulatory updates for Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs), rural health clinics (RHCs) federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), and hospital and CAH swing-bed providers. Among other updates for CAHs, the final rule replaces the current requirement on systems for infection control with a new infection prevention and control and antibiotic stewardship Condition of Participation (CoP). CMS is also requiring that CAHs develop, implement, and maintain Quality Assessment and Performance Improvement Programs (QAPI) programs, that will replace the existing annual evaluation and quality assurance review requirement. In implementing the QAPI requirements, CMS encourages CAHs to utilize the technical assistance and services available through the State Flex Programs, including the Medicare Beneficiary Quality Improvement Project (MBQIP). For RHCs and FQHCs, the final rule reduces the frequency of review of the patient care policies and facility evaluation from annually to every two years. The final rule also makes changes to other requirements such as those pertaining to emergency preparedness. To see all the facility types and regulations affected, you may access the final rule in the Federal Register. These regulations will go into effect on November 29, 2019, except for the CAH QAPI and antibiotic stewardship requirements (March 30, 2021 and March 30, 2020, respectively).

RHIhub Toolkit for Rural Suicide Prevention

The Rural Health Information Hub (RHIhub) recently announced a new toolkit that compiles resources and model programs to aid organizations in implementing suicide prevention programs in rural communities.  According to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide rates are higher in rural areas of the country.  Earlier this year, the CDC released a map of suicide mortality, showing a concentration in states that are mostly rural.

New Brief: CAH Participation in Flex Financial and Operational Improvement Activities

The national Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program (Flex) Monitoring Team has released a new policy brief on Critical Access Hospital (CAH) participation in Flex financial and operational improvement activities. The brief aims to identify the patterns of CAH participation in Flex-funded activities from 2015 to 2018 and to investigate whether CAHs at greater risk of financial distress were more likely to participate in financial and operational improvement activities.  The brief may accessed via the link below or on the Flex Monitoring Team website.