HHS funding new rural workforce programs to the tune of $20M

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded $20 million in grants to help healthcare organizations in 21 states create new rural residency programs.

The funding, disbursed through the Health Resources and Services Administration via its Rural Residency Planning and Development Program grants, will help these states launch new residency programs over the next three years while achieving accreditation through the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

“Supporting the training of healthcare providers in rural areas through grants like these is a key way to help expand rural access to care, and is part of an overall effort to support rural healthcare in sustainable, innovative, and flexible ways,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar in a statement.

With physician shortages a major challenge across U.S. healthcare, the problem is especially acute in rural settings. The RRPD program is part of a multi-year project from HRSA meant to strengthen the physician workforce in remote and underserved areas with new, sustainable residency programs in family medicine, internal medicine, and psychiatry.

Recipients of these new awards include rural hospitals, community health centers, health centers operated by the Indian Health Service, Indian tribes or tribal organizations and schools of medicine, according to the agency.

“Training residents in rural areas is one strategy shown to successfully encourage graduates to practice in rural settings,” explained HRSA’s associate administrator for its Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Tom Morris.

“The health challenges in rural America are clear: rural communities face a greater risk of poor health outcomes than their urban counterparts,” said HRSA Administrator George Sigounas. “Programs like the Rural Residency Planning and Development grants take aim at one of the most persistent disparities: access to high quality healthcare providers. HRSA is committed to increasing the number of providers serving rural communities and improving health in rural America.”

“We know that clinicians who train in rural settings are more likely to continue to practice there after they complete their residencies,” added HRSA’s associate administrator for its Bureau of Health Workforce Dr. Luis Padilla. “Rural communities are more likely to have a shortage of health professionals. The rural residency grants are one more way HRSA is helping to expand the health workforce and increase access to quality healthcare for these communities.”

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