Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

USDA Seeks Applications for Grants to Build Community-Oriented High-Speed Internet Networks for People in Rural Areas

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small announced that USDA is accepting applications for grants to build community-oriented, high-speed internet networks for people in rural areas.

The Department is making up to $79 million in grants available under the Community Connect program. Recipients may use the funds to establish high-speed internet networks that will foster economic growth and deliver enhanced educational, health care and public safety benefits.

Grant recipients must agree to provide high-speed internet service at community-serving institutions free of charge for up to two years. These institutions include schools, libraries, fire stations and other public safety sites.

To learn more, read the full Stakeholder Announcement.

Here You Can Read About A New Focus on Hepatitis

  The White House’s budget request to Congress included an $11 billion ask to tackle the spread of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) over the next five years.  Though it’s not a crisis that’s well-known or understood, public health efforts in the last 10 years have made strides toward prevention and treatment.  Direct-acting antivirals developed less than a decade ago have been proven effective in 95 percent of the people who take a curative pill for 8 to 12 weeks.  The challenge has been getting infected persons in for diagnosis and moving them toward treatment.  For rural communities, the rise in prevalence has been labeled epidemic and closely related to injection drug use. Data show a substantial number of people are unaware they’re infected; of those with some kind of public or private insurance, only a third are actually treated.  Left untreated, HCV can lead to liver failure, cancer, and death.  The proposed federal program includes a significant push for screening and treatment – accelerating the availability of point-of-care diagnostic tests and providing broad access to medication – with a focus on populations at greatest risk for infection: Medicaid beneficiaries, justice-involved populations, people without insurance, and American Indian and Alaska Native individuals who are treated through the Indian Health Service. Also last week: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated recommendations for hepatitis B virus screening and testing.  Considered more common than HCV, hepatitis B causes more liver-related cancer and death.

Explore Rural Perspectives of Buprenorphine Here!

Researchers at Indiana University conducted one-on-one interviews with clinical providers and other stakeholders in the recovery arena to better understand the slow uptake of the drug most used to treat opioid use disorder.  Biases against buprenorphine were the most consistent theme, though the reason for bias differed amongst stakeholders. Clinical providers and behavioral health care providers preferred the abstinence approach rather than the use of medications. Hospital administrators, peer recovery coaches, and criminal justice representatives tended to hold a bias against substance use in general and/or had a lack of knowledge of how buprenorphine was administered and how it works.  Similar responses were reported in a 2020 study of attitudes in rural Ohio.

Pennsylvania Data Show Overdose Deaths May Be Declining

An analysis by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania has shown that the number of deaths from drug overdoses may be declining in rural areas. But optimism remains cautious, as many rural areas still have overdose rates above the state average and less access to lifesaving interventions. At a recent hearing, addiction treatment providers in the state stressed the need for regulatory changes to meet rural needs. Providers testified that finding transportation to get to treatment services is a challenge and the majority of people housed at the county’s jail have substance use disorders.

Linkages Between Rural Community Capitals and Healthcare Provision: A Survey of Small Rural Towns in Three U.S. Regions

New report from USDA’s Economic Research Service

Although healthcare is one of the largest and fastest-growing sectors in the rural U.S., many rural communities suffer from poor access to healthcare, in part due to difficulties recruiting and retaining healthcare professionals.

A report issued today by USDA’s Economic Research Service, Linkages Between Rural Community Capitals and Healthcare Provision: A Survey of Small Rural Towns in Three U.S. Regions, focuses on how rural communities can attract and retain healthcare professionals. The study is based on key informant interviews and a survey of healthcare professionals in 150 rural small towns in 9 U.S. states.

Here are a few key findings from the report:

  • Social capital (the value of personal and professional relationships) was widely perceived by both key informants and healthcare professionals as important for the recruitment and retention of the professionals. Many key informants and most healthcare professionals highlighted the importance of relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and patients in recruitment and length-of-stay decisions.
  • Physical capital such as the availability and quality of housing, medical facilities, and equipment was widely cited as a factor, though less often than social capital.
  • Human capital, reflected in the quality of both schools and healthcare professionals, is also widely perceived as important for recruitment and retention, though cited less often than social capital. Key informants more often cited the importance of school quality for recruitment—while healthcare professionals often cited the quality of the medical community, colleagues, and staff as important to accepting and retaining employment.

For more information, please refer to the full report.

New Report Reveals Dental Insurance Dropouts

New monthly data from the American Dental Association (ADA) Health Policy Institute (HPI) reveal new insights into the status of practice participation in dental insurance networks. The data show that about 1 in 6 dental practices have dropped out of some insurance networks since January 2023. The February 2023 poll also revealed that one-third of dentists continue to report they are actively recruiting dental hygienists and dental assistants.

Click here to view the full results.