Pennsylvania Population Estimates Released for Counties

The U.S. Census Bureau released estimates of the total population as of July 1, 2019 at the county level. The data show that the fastest growing counties since 2010 are Cumberland (+7.6%), Lebanon (+6.1%), Lehigh (+5.6%), Centre (+5.4%), and Chester (+5.2%). Counties with the greatest percentage decreases were Cameron (-12.5%), Cambria (-9.4%), Venango (-7.9%), Susquehanna (-6.9%), and McKean (-6.5%).

By sheer numbers Philadelphia continued to add the most population this decade (+58,052). Philadelphia was followed by Montgomery (+31,075), Lancaster (+26,281), Chester (+25,856), and Lehigh (+19,643). Westmoreland County lost the most population so far this decade (-16,172). Westmoreland was followed by Cambria (-13,503), Erie (-10,856), Fayette (-7,327), and Allegheny (-7,258).

Want to take a closer look?  Find the data at:

Brief Provided for EMS Agencies Published

The national Flex Monitoring Team has released a new briefing paper on data sources to help rural EMS agencies and State Flex Programs monitor and improve rural EMS performance. Through our work with an expert panel and a review of EMS data collection efforts, we identified barriers to as well as opportunities for EMS agencies, State EMS offices, and State Flex Programs to improve the collection, reporting and use of EMS data.

This paper may be accessed via the link below or on the Flex Monitoring Team website.

Assessing the Effectiveness of CHWs

Over the years, there have been many studies on the effectiveness of the community health worker (CHW) in improving health outcomes.  The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the National Association of Community Health Workers recently published a summary of the research from the past 50 years.  It focused on assessing effectiveness in improving health outcomes, reducing healthcare costs and bridging the gap in health disparities.

Read the summary.

Report on CAH Hospital Compare Measures Released

The national Flex Monitoring Team (FMT) has released reports of Critical Access Hospital (CAH) performance and reporting rates on selected Hospital Compare measures, using data from 2018.

The Hospital Compare data in this report include several measures that are also measures for the Medicare Beneficiary Quality Improvement Project (MBQIP). Although the majority of CAHs report data on these measures to both Hospital Compare and MBQIP, the data in this report may differ from MBQIP reports because some CAHs only report data to one of these programs.

The national report may accessed here and state reports may be accessed via the links below. All FMT publications can also be found on the Flex website.

Child and Maternal Health in Rural Areas Lags the Nation, Highlighting Barriers to Access

February 25, 2020

One in five Americans lives in a rural area, including about 18 million women of reproductive age, but key indicators, including mortality figures, show that the health of mothers and children in these communities lags behind that of their urban peers and is worsening. Nationwide, child mortality rates have declined over the past decade, but recent research shows that improvement among infants and young children has been much slower in rural areas. To reverse these disparities and improve overall outcomes, government agencies at all levels, as well as health providers, policymakers, and communities, must combine their expertise and resources to identify effective solutions that address the complex drivers of health and well-being among mothers and their children.

Read more

Nursing Home Closures and Trends, June 2015–June 2019

Provides an overview of the causes and implications of 500 nursing home closures between June 2015 and June 2019. Examines the geographic distribution of these closures, including states in which closures are concentrated in rural areas. Explores nursing home closures in relation to occupancy rates, quality ratings, tax status, and the impact of Medicaid payment policies. Offers recommendations for policymakers and nursing homes.
Sponsoring organization: LeadingAge
Date: 02/2020

Qualifications of Neighborhood-Level Social Determinants of Health in the Continental United States

Results of a study examining 71,901 census tracts, to quantify the social determinants of health (SDOH) consisting of advantage, isolation, opportunity, and mixed immigrant cohesion. Features demographic statistics with breakdowns by 7 multidimensional neighborhood typologies, including Rural Affordable. Offers comparisons between SDOH in Chicago and the rest of the continental United States.
Author(s): Marynia Kolak, Jay Bhatt, Yoon Hong Park, Norma A. Padron, Ayrin Molefe
Location: JAMA Network Open, 3(1)
Date: 01/2020




From Kentucky to New York, Appalachia’s Hemp Industry is Growing Strong 

Over a hundred years ago, hemp was a major commercial crop in Kentucky, and the Commonwealth was one of the nation’s leading hemp producers. By mid-century, Kentucky’s commercial hemp production market started to drop. Now, decades later, local businesses and entrepreneurs are driving initiatives to renew growth and production of the versatile crop. Hemp can be used to manufacture over 25,000 products from clothing and food to building materials and pharmaceuticals. A recent USDA report, found that Kentucky and Tennessee were among the top six states nationwide in hemp production, with many other Appalachian states not far behind.

Across the region, communities are seriously pursuing hemp. New York, for example, launched its Industrial Hemp Agricultural Research Pilot program in 2015, which allowed a limited number of education institutions to research and produce industrial hemp. With ARC support, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Allegany County in partnership with the Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board, regional New York State Farm Bureau, and other local partners are developing an integrated economic development strategy to position southwestern New York as an industrial hemp cluster economy.  Included in the scope of work is research on storage, processing and marketing needs, and testing of different varieties of industrial hemp cultivars that will inform planting strategies for the region. The partnership is also planning for a Southern Tier Hemp Expo and Trade Show which will provide a networking opportunity for manufacturers, farmers and landowners interesting in the hemp industry.  Over the next two years, these efforts are anticipated to serve 60 businesses, create 12 new businesses, as well as create 60 jobs.

Rural Mothers Face Physical and Mental Health Issues 

recent study out of Washington State University revealed how chronic depression impacts the lives of rural mothers and their children. Mothers with chronic depression experience more physical health issues, while also distrusting the health professionals who would treat them. They also struggle to manage their children’s health, often exacerbated by the lack of childcare options and loss of employment. Dr. Yoshie Sano, the lead author of the study, explains that “there’s a huge stigma around mental health, especially in rural areas.” When rural mothers are depressed, their family and community are also affected. It is essential to support the physical and mental health of rural mothers.