Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Announcements

August 19, 2021

More Federal Support for Rural Telehealth. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced awards of more than $19 million to expand telehealth services in rural areas and underserved communities. In addition to projects that connect rural providers to specialists for complex conditions, the funding continues the work of HRSA-supported Telehealth Resource Centers that provide guidance for implementing telehealth in every part of the country. 

CDC Clinician Outreach: Additional mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines for Immunocompromised PeopleThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued Emergency Use Authorizations for additional doses of vaccines for moderately to severely immunocompromised people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19. Studies indicate that some immunocompromised people who have been vaccinated have a reduced immune response compared to vaccine recipients who are not immunocompromised. Studies have further demonstrated that an additional vaccine dose in some immunocompromised populations may enhance immune response. During this clinician outreach call that took place on August 17, presenters from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discussed the current data and CDC’s guidance on additional COVID-19 doses in immunocompromised people.

“The Critical Role of Monoclonal Antibodies as the COVID-19 Pandemic Continues” Webinar Recording Available. The Health Resources and Services Administration recently held a webinar featuring Michael R. Anderson, MD, a Senior Advisor to the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, who discussed how monoclonal antibody therapeutics can help prevent serious illness from COVID-19.  Dr. Anderson shared updates on available COVID-19 therapeutics including efficacy, new administration routes and novel treatments in the pipeline, reimbursement resources, and provider and patient tools and fact sheets. For further questions, contact Dr. Anderson and his team. 

Awards for the Rural Northern Border Region Planning Program. The Federal Office of Rural Health Policy recently announced four awards of approximately $760,000 each for a new program identifying health care challenges in rural counties served by the Northern Border Regional Commission. This eighteen-month project will support planning activities such as, but not limited to, community needs assessments, formal strategic planning processes, and infrastructure development.

New Insights on Maternity Care, Clinical Quality Measures, and Medication-Assisted Treatment. HRSA’s Health Centers Program published new research briefs exploring health center capacity in maternity care deserts, differences in clinical quality measures among Appalachian and non-Appalachian health centers, and the role of health centers in providing medication-assisted treatment. The briefs were developed through the UDS Mapper—a tool that helps evaluate the geographic reach, penetration, and growth of the Health Center Program and its relationship to other federally-linked health resources.

ERS: Rural Poverty Has Distinct Regional and Racial Patterns. A study from the Economic Research Service (ERS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that, out of 310 counties with high and persistent poverty in 2019, 86 percent were rural. Nearly half of rural residents who identify as Black or African American and American Indian or Alaska Native lived in these persistent poverty counties; by comparison, 20 percent of poor Hispanics and 12 percent of rural non-Hispanic Whites resided in those counties. 

History of the Swing Bed.  The feature of the latest Rural Monitor reviews the history of the swing bed program, which provides continued care for patients after injury or illness in a rural hospital. The article describes how post-acute care for rural residents shifted from urban hospitals and aspects of the swing bed program that contributed to its success.