The Power of Rural: Celebrating National Rural Health Day

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National Rural Health Day is a time to recognize the countless strides rural communities have made.

Through innovative systems and unique partnerships, rural communities across the United States have made critical advancements toward improving their health outcomes. The Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Office of Rural Health Policy and the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health recognize National Rural Health Day on Thursday, November 16, by spotlighting the pioneering work of our rural communities.

This year’s National Rural Health Day focuses on the Power of Rural, how collaborations in rural communities and throughout HRSA support the delivery of quality healthcare in rural America.

National Rural Health Day is a time to recognize the countless strides rural communities have made. More than 800,000 rural Americans receive health services thanks to rural community-based grants. HRSA’s rural grantees have successfully leveraged funds to provide access to services across the healthcare spectrum. They have increased access to primary care, established early intervention services for patients with behavioral health needs, and expanded access to healthcare via telehealth. HRSA’s rural grantees have played a critical role in enhancing the quality and availability of healthcare services.

Dr. Sigounas visited Fairfax Medical Facilities in Newkirk, OK. From left: Claudia Dilbeck, Quality Coordinator, Fairfax Medical Facilities, of Newkirk, Okla.; Ryan Smykil (HHS/Indian Health Service); Dr. Sigounas; and Karen McConnell, CEO.

Along with acknowledging the accomplishments made by rural communities, it is also important to acknowledge the disproportionate obstacles that rural Americans must overcome. In the context of HHS priorities, rural Americans have poorer outcomes when it comes to substance abuse (particularly the opioid abuse epidemic), childhood obesity, and mental health.

While we have seen a rise in opioid abuse deaths on a national level, rural residents face an even greater disparity as rural states are more likely to have higher rates of overdose deaths, specifically from prescription opioid overdoses. Rural children face their own disparity when considering childhood obesity. Rural children aged 10 – 17 years have higher rates of obesity than their urban counterparts.

Additionally, while the prevalence of mental illness is comparable among urban and rural communities, the barriers lie within the availability and accessibility of mental health services.

But these challenges also present opportunities. This past September, HRSA awarded $200 million to health centers to address mental health and the opioid crisis. HRSA also awarded $3 million in grants to address the unique obstacles rural communities face in addressing the opioid crisis. This included three grants focusing on the use of telehealth to provide comprehensive substance abuse services.

Access to quality and comprehensive healthcare services is an essential focal point when thinking about the well-being of rural Americans. HRSA is working to foster access to quality healthcare through collaborative work and programs that include supporting rural health facilities, investing in Community Health Centers, and building a strong health workforce. HRSA supports nearly 1,400 health centers operating more than 10,400 service sites across the United States, with more than 40 percent of those health centers serving rural communities. HRSA is also working to increase access to healthcare providers through our health professional training programs. Through the Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Program, a program to enhance education and training networks in order to improve healthcare delivery to rural or underserved areas, 41 percent of students and residents came from a rural setting. Additionally, 144 Rural Health Clinics partnered with AHECs to provide training experiences to students and residents. Also, in fiscal year 2017, roughly a third of National Health Service Corps and Nurse Corps members worked in rural communities, providing services in primary care, oral health, and mental health.

As part of National Rural Health Day, let us celebrate the successes of our rural communities and also take this time to reflect on how our partnerships, whether at the community, state, or federal level, can continue to transform and improve rural health outcomes. While rural communities face unique challenges, they also have unique ideas and solutions that bring the community together and engaged in ways to improve the lives of rural Americans.

National Rural Health Day will be observed on November 16, 2017. To learn more, please visit:

Earlier this week, HRSA moderated a series of Twitter chats November 13-15. The topics were workforce development, the social determinants of health, and behavioral health, respectively. You can review the chats by following @HRSAgov or using hashtag, #OurRural.

During #NRHD, we recognize the considerable contributions that rural communities have made to improve health outcomes.


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