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HHS Celebrates 25 years for the Office of Rural Health Policy

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today observes National Rural Health Day and celebrates the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Office of Rural Health Policy (ORHP).  Created in 1987 under the Social Security Act, ORHP advises the Secretary on HHS policies impacting rural health and works with state and local partners to enhance delivery of services to 62 million residents living in rural communities.

"The Office of Rural Health Policy is the voice of rural America within HHS," said Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  "Their relationship with officials and providers within these communities offers us a better understanding of needs on the ground and informs the decisions we make at the Federal level."

Housed within the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), ORHP provides grants to 50 State Offices of Rural Health and community-based programs, and provides technical assistance to small rural hospitals.   In addition to practical tools that rural communities can use to improve their health systems, ORHP supports research and analysis of key policy issues at the local level.

Sponsored by the National Organization for State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH), National Rural Health Day is observed on the third Thursday of every November and recognizes the strength and spirit of rural America.  It showcases the efforts of rural healthcare providers, State Offices of Rural Health and other rural community leaders to meet local health needs.

"There are so many challenges in rural communities," said HRSA Administrator Mary K. Wakefield, Ph.D., RN.  "With an aging population suffering from a greater number of chronic conditions and larger percentages of under- and uninsured citizens than urban areas, access to vital health care services and health care providers is a critical issue in these areas."

The Affordable Care Act expands access to health insurance for uninsured rural populations through better access to Medicaid and tax credits to help pay for insurance.  Last year, the President initiated the White House Rural Council to ensure that Cabinet-level Departments work across government to strengthen rural communities and promote economic growth. 

"In many cases, rural hospitals are the economic foundation of their communities in addition to being the primary providers of care," said Tom Morris, Associate Administrator of the Office of Rural Health Policy.  "It's our mission to help them keep their doors open and provide quality care to their communities."

Recent developments and achievements:

  • Improving Rural Health Care Initiative.  Implemented by the White House in 2010, the initiative aims to improve coordination of rural health activities across HHS and other Federal Departments and broaden use of best practices through the Rural Assistance Center.
  • Economic Impact Analysis Tool.  Created by the Rural Assistance Center with support from ORHP, the tool aids spending decisions at the local level by calculating the impact of healthcare investments on local economies.
  • Medicare Beneficiary Quality Improvement Project.  Voluntary participation of more than 80% of Critical Access Hospitals to improve quality reporting and identify best practice solutions that improve quality outcomes.

For more information, please visit http://www.hrsa.gov/ruralhealth  

The Health Resources and Services Administration is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  HRSA is the primary federal agency responsible for improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable. 

SOURCE Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)

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