Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

June 21, 2018

What’s New

FCC Approves Expansion of Rural Broadband Funding.  On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to approve a 40 percent increase in annual funding for the Rural Health Care Program (RHCP), raising its cap to $571 million per year.  The RHCP provides subsidies that allow rural health care providers to get telecommunications services at rates comparable to urban areas, where the cost is typically lower.  In the previous two years, requests for funding superseded the $400 million annual cap.
CDC: Obesity Prevalence In Rural Areas.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data showing a significantly higher prevalence of obesity (34 percent) among adults in rural counties compared to those in urban counties (29 percent).  The CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity looked at self-reported data from 2016 in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and found that  “in 24 of 47 states, obesity prevalence was significantly higher among persons in nonmetropolitan counties than among those in metropolitan counties; only in Wyoming was obesity prevalence higher among metropolitan county residents.”

EPA Provides Support to Rural Communities.  On June 14, the Environmental Protection Agency announced technical assistance for six rural communities through Healthy Places for Healthy People, a federal initiative that engages local leadership “to create walkable, healthy, economically vibrant downtowns and neighborhoods.”  Experts will meet with partners in each community – located in Alabama, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina and Washington state – to identify local assets that can be used to support health and economic revitalization.

CMS Opioids Roadmap.  Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published a roadmap outlining the agency’s efforts to address the opioid epidemic.  Lack of resources, health care infrastructure and workforce has meant a greater impact on rural communities, and CMS provides a look at how they’re monitoring the situation and using data to better understand patterns and best practices for prevention and treatment.

Funding Opportunities

Advanced Nursing Education – Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners Program – July 26.  The Bureau of Health Workforce at HRSA will make 16 awards for total funding of $8 million to increase the number of Registered Nurses, Advanced Practice Registered Nurses and Forensic Nurses who are trained and certified as sexual assault nurse examiners in communities on a local, regional and/or state level. Eligible applicants include accredited schools of nursing, nursing centers, nurse-managed health clinics, academic health centers, state or local health departments,  Rural Health Clinics, public or non-profit hospitals, other emergency health care service providers, Federally Qualified Health Centers, clinics receiving funding under Title X and other relevant public or private non-profit entities.  The nonprofit National Resource Center on Domestic Violence reports that sexual assault in rural areas is often overlooked and under-reported due to lack of anonymity, geographic isolation and distrust of outside assistance among other factors.

Department of Labor YouthBuild Program – September 18.  The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will make 85 awards of up to $1.1 million each  “to organizations providing pre-apprenticeship services that support education, occupational skills training, and employment services to at-risk youth, ages 16 to 24, while performing meaningful work and service to their communities.”  Eligible applicants are public or private nonprofit entities and include rural, urban, or Native American agencies that have previously served disadvantaged youth in a YouthBuild or other similar program.  Access to jobs and economic opportunity is one of the social determinants known to leave a negative impact health outcomes in rural areas.

Rural Health  Research

AHRQ: Insurance and Access to Care in Urban and Rural Areas, 2014-2015This brief released from the Agency for Healthcare Research Quality (AHRQ) shows that between 2014-2015, the percentage of uninsured under 65 years of age did not differ between urban and rural residents; however, compared to urban residents, rural residents were more likely to have public insurance and less likely to have private insurance.  Additionally, among those under 65 years of age, rural residents were less likely to be without a usual source of care than their urban counterparts.

Policy Updates

Visit the FORHP Policy page to see all recent updates and send questions to

No policy updates this week.

Resources, Learning Events and Technical Assistance

Lessons Learned from School-Based Telehealth Networks – Thursday, June 21 at 2:00 pm ET.  The HRSA-funded Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center will provide insight on the 2016 grant program for telehealth-enabled school-based health centers in rural communities.  During the hour-long webinar, you will hear about the successes, challenges and lessons learned from three of the grantees as they approach the completion of the 2nd year of their four-year grant funded initiatives.

New Developments in HIV Prevention and Treatment – Monday, June 25 at 2:00 pm ET.  HRSA’s Office of Regional Operations (ORO) will host this one-hour webinar looking at new incidence and approaches to HIV/AIDS.  The event is the third in ORO’s Public Health Webinar Series aimed at health and social services providers and timed for National HIV Testing Day on Wednesday, June 27th.  The CDC has shown that suburban and rural areas in certain parts of the country have seen an increase in new cases.

Rural Insights on Teen Birth and Infant Mortality – Tuesday, June 26 at 12 pm ET.  In the first of an ongoing series of webinars, hear about key rural findings from the National Center on Health Statistics (NCHS) on teen childbearing and infant mortality and their role as two important indicators of maternal and child health. Although declines in teen births have occurred among both rural and urban areas, disparities in prevalence still exist. Similarly, while there have been historic improvements in infant mortality across the United States in general, higher rates continue to persist among infants born in rural areas. NCHS, the Nation’s health statistical agency, collects, monitors, and disseminates data on several indicators of maternal and child health, including birth and infant mortality rates, and has made a priority of data reporting by geography, including rural areas, more recently. This webinar is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ongoing efforts to study health factors and outcomes in rural areas.

Addressing Childhood Obesity through a Systems Perspective – June 27-28.  HRSA’s Office of Regional Operations in Kansas City will host a two-day event, viewable online, to discuss “Factors of Health” – socioeconomic factors, physical environment, health behaviors, and health care – that influence childhood obesity.  Data show there’s a greater prevalence of childhood obesity in rural areas.

HRSA Virtual Job Fair for Primary Care Clinicians – Wednesday, June 27 at 6:45 pm ET.  HRSA’s Bureau of Health Workforce hosts Virtual Job Fairs – free, interactive events held online to allow primary care providers a chance to talk about their NHSC- or NURSE Corps-approved site, the community they serve and currently available positions.  Job-seeking primary care trainees and practicing clinicians can connect with as many 100 organizations during this 3.5 hour event.

Application Assistance for Rural Opioid Response Funding – Thursday, June 28 at 1:00 pm ET.  The Federal Office of Rural Health Policy will hold a technical assistance webinar for applicants to the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program.  Dial-in information can be found on page (ii) in the grant program guidance.  To find the guidance, go to the page, click on the Package tab, then Preview, then “Download Instructions.” A recording will be made available for those who cannot attend.  For more information, contact

Suicide Prevention for Veterans – Thursday, June 28 at 2:00 pm ET.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will host this two-hour event to discuss  “military culture-informed strategies that can be used to reduce access to lethal means, including poisoning and firearms, for individuals who are at high risk of suicide.”  The event is the first in a series on suicide prevention created by the SAMHSA’s Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Technical Assistance Center (SMVF TA Center).  According to the Veterans Administration Office of Rural Health, almost a quarter of all veterans in the United States, 4.7 million, return from active military careers to reside in rural communities.

Resource of the Week

Rural Resources for the Opioid Crisis.  The Rural Health Information Hub updated its site to include a guide with initiatives and funding opportunities, rural-specific program examples as well as tools and resources focused on prevention, harm reduction, and treatment.

Approaching Deadlines

Tribal Behavioral Health Grant Program – June 22
DOJ Funding: Services for Victims of Human Trafficking – June 25
Evidence-Based Tele-Behavioral Health Network Program – June 25
Comments Requested: Interoperability/Data Sharing in Hospitals and CAHs
– June 25
CDC Health Promotion Research Centers – June 25
Comments Requested: CMS Updates Payment and Policy for Hospitals – June 25
Comments Requested: Policy Updates to Medicare Hospice – June 26
Comments Requested: Policy Updates to Psychiatric Facilities – June 26
Comments Requested: Policy Updates for Rehabilitation Facilities – June 26
Comments Requested: Policy Updates for Skilled Nursing Facilities – June 26
Faculty Loan Repayment – June 28
Preventing Rural Teen Pregnancy – June 29
CMS Annual Call for Medicare EHR Incentive Program Measures  – June 29
Rural Health Care Telecommunications Program – June 29
Deadline for Hospitals EHR Hardship Exception July 1
Comments Requested: Rural Health Workgroup for Quality Measurement – July 2
Comments Requested: HRSA Burden Reduction – July 2
Comments Requested: Increasing Investment in the Healthcare Sector – July 7
Grants to Expand Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics – July 9
Comments Requested: Policy for Durable Medical Equipment in Rural Areas – July 9
CDC – Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) – July 16
Coordinating Research for Rural Opioid HIV Initiative Letters of Intent – July 16
Substance Use Funding for NHSC Sites – July 17
Research to Promote Health and Well-Being For Children – July 18
Family-to-Family Health Information Centers (Tribes and U.S. Territories) – July 19
Invest in Rural Transportation – July 19
Advanced Nursing Education – Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners Program – July 26
Rural Communities Opioid Response Program – July 30
Grants for Transportation of Veterans in Highly Rural Areas – July 30
Injury Control Research Centers – August 6
CDC Funding Data Collection for Violent Death Reporting – August 7
CDC Funding to Address Obesity in High Risk Rural Areas – August 8
Guaranteed Loans for Rural Rental Housing – Ongoing through 2021
Telecommunications Infrastructure Loans – Ongoing
Funding for Rural Water and Waste Disposal Projects –  Ongoing
Drinking Water and Waste Disposal for Rural and Native Alaskan Villages – Ongoing
HIT Strategies for Patient-Reported Outcome Measures – Ongoing
HIT to Improve Health Care Quality and Outcomes – Ongoing
Community Facilities Program –  Ongoing
Summer Food Service Program – Ongoing