Brief Released on a National Initiative to Address COVID-19 Heath Disparities

The Southwest Rural Health Research Center released the results of a qualitative study on a CDC COVID grant, “National Initiative to Address COVID-19 Health Disparities Among Populations at High-Risk and Underserved, Including Racial and Ethnic Minority Populations and Rural Communities.”

The grant included a financial “carve-out” designed to provide support to rural areas (approximately 19%, or $427m allocated of the grant’s total funding) which required recipients “who serve rural communities” to “define these communities and describe how they will provide direct support (e.g., funding, programs, or services) to those communities.” State government recipients were also required to “engage their State Office of Rural Health or equivalent, in planning and implementing their activities.”

Key findings from the study:

  • “The CDC’s COVID-19 rural carve-out, which explicitly designates a portion of funds for rural areas, has widespread support among stakeholders, with most encouraging the use of carveouts for future grant programs as well.
  • The development of the carve -out at the CDC was a complex and multi-faceted process, in part because it was a new type of funding mechanism.
  • The carve-out has provided many leaders in State Offices of Rural Health a ‘seat at the table’ in state public health decision-making.
  • Funds are being used in interesting and creative ways, but it is too soon to evaluate the impact of funds on rural communities.
  • Despite program support, the rural carve-out has seen some challenges tied to rural administrative capacity, sustainability, and timing, as has been seen with other rural health initiatives during the pandemic.”