Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

ICYMI:  Explore HeatRisk Forecast Tool

In case you missed it: last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created the nation’s first health-based alert system and heat guidance for clinicians. As part of this effort, the CDC also provides a HeatRisk Dashboard with resources for high-heat days, details on local air quality, and actions to stay safe in these conditions.  Finally, the CDC has a site with clinical guidance for heat health, focused initially on treating children with asthma, pregnant women, and people with cardiovascular disease.


HRSA Modifies Definition of Rural for FORHP Grants 

Comment by May 28. On April 26th, the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) announced a proposed modification to the definition of ‘rural’ used to designate eligible areas for rural health grants. Because access to needed health care is likely to be reduced when roads are most difficult to traverse, FORHP proposes to modify the definition of rural areas by integrating the new Road Ruggedness Scale (RRS) released in 2023 by the Economic Research Service (ERS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The proposed modifications are based on a data-driven methodology to identify areas with difficult mountainous terrain.  All areas included in the current definition of rural would remain included.

Overdose Deaths Are in Decline


Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released provisional data from their National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) indicating an estimated 107,543 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2023 – a decrease of 3 percent from the 111,029 deaths estimated in 2022.  This is the first annual decrease in drug overdose deaths since 2018.  Several states across the nation saw decreases; Nebraska, Kansas, Indiana, and Maine experienced declines of 15 percent or more.  Still, some states saw increases. Alaska, Washington, and Oregon stood out with notable increases of at least 27% compared to the same period in 2022.  Various factors make a difference in provisional counts versus final counts, such as records indicating “pending investigation.” The data are based on death records NCHS receives each month from state vital registration offices with no distinction between urban and rural.

HHS Releases Nondiscrimination in Health Program and Activities Final Rule

Effective May 6.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights issued a final rule under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act advancing protections against discrimination in health care. At a minimum, the rule will restore protections against discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability. It will also reduce language access barriers, expand physical and digital accessibility, and address bias in health technology. With the restoration of the rule, HHS aims to increase meaningful access to health care for communities across the United States.

Pennsylvania State Health Assessment Now Available

The 2023 Pennsylvania State Health Assessment update is now published and available on the Department of Health webpage. The State of Our Health: A Statewide Health Assessment of Pennsylvania identifies the populations most impaced by various health risks and outcomes and the possible causes for those disparate impacts. The assessment was developed through collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data with engagement of 82 organizations, including PACHC, who participate in the Healthy Pennsylvania Partnership.

Pennsylvania Governor’s Administration Launches Overdose Prevention Program

The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) and the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) has announced a new program, building on the impact of the Naloxone for First Responders Program (NFRP). The new program—the PA Overdose Prevention Program—will serve as a “one-stop-shop” for individuals and organizations seeking multiple formulations of naloxone and related harm reduction supplies, including fentanyl and xylazine test strips. It will also serve as a clearinghouse for information, training, and technical assistance to help groups involved in harm reduction work and others on the front lines of Pennsylvania’s evolving overdose crisis. Like the NFRP, the PA Overdose Prevention Program will focus on getting naloxone and harm reduction supplies into the hands of people who use drugs and those who serve and support them. Read more about the initiative.

Medicaid and CHIP Renewals Begin: Reaching Children and Families in School-Based and Early Education and Care Settings

 As pandemic-era protections for Medicaid coverage end, the Centers for Medicaid & Medicaid Services created materials and resources to help people with Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) take steps to renew their health coverage or find other coverage options. Education and early education professionals can use this toolkit to reach parents and families about what is happening right now with Medicaid and CHIP, and community groups are encouraged to use this slide deck and talking points for outreach.