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HHS releases Rural Action Plan

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the Rural Action Plan on September 3. The Rural Action Plan, the first HHS-wide assessment of rural healthcare efforts in more than 18 years and developed with input from HHS’s Rural Task Force.

The plan identifies key challenges facing rural communities related to issues such as emerging health disparities, chronic disease burden, high rates of maternal mortality and limited access to mental health services. The plan lays out a four-point strategy to transform rural health and human services:

  1. Building a sustainable health and human services model for rural communities. This strategy includes funding to support hospitals and rural health clinics transition to value-based models, expanding training for tribal community health providers, and funding the Integrated Rural Community Care project to connect FQHCs with rural hospitals to better coordinate preventive, primary and emergency care.
  2. Leveraging technology and innovation.HHS will support a new HHS Health Challenge focused on technology to improve screening and management of post-partum depression for rural women, provide more than $8 million in grant funding for the Telehealth Network Grant Program, and develop new flexible Medicare Advantage plans that address telehealth providers in contracted networks.
  3. Focusing on preventing disease and mortality. HHS will create the Healthy Rural Hometown Initiative to identify strategies to address rural disparities in stroke, heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, and substance use. HHS will also invest $2 million in rural cancer control grants and an additional $8 million over 4 years to identify evidence-based interventions to reduce health risks for rural Americans.
  4. Increasing rural access to care. HHS will study workforce shortage challenges related to state-based licensure restrictions, invest $5 million to recruit and train rural EMS personnel, and award $8.25 million to 11 communities to develop new rural residency programs through the Rural Residency Planning and Development Program.

The full version of the Rural Health Action Plan is available here.

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