The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, awarded nearly $90 million in American Rescue Plan funding to nearly 1,400 community health centers to advance health equity through better data collection and reporting – as well as nearly $60 million to grow the workforce and increase healthcare access in rural areas.
WHY IT MATTERS
The cache of ARP funding for community health centers supports data modernization to improve data quality and, ultimately, patient care and response to public health emergencies. The HRSA seeks to bolster health center capabilities to generate patient health status data and better understand social determinants of health.
For rural health access, nearly $46 million in ARP funding supports 31 awardees to expand healthcare capacity in rural and tribal communities through workforce development, training and placement.
According to the announcement, the funding will help address critical rural health workforce needs, including dental hygienists, medical and dental assistants, community-based doulas and other frontline healthcare workers.
Included in the funding is nearly $10 million from HRSA’s Rural Residency Planning and Development Program for 13 organizations to establish new rural medical residency programs.
Another $4 million will support 18 awards to improve patient health outcomes and care delivery in rural counties and improve access to care for rural veterans.
THE LARGER TREND
Nearly one in five Americans lives in a rural area where health disparities between rural and urban areas tripled between 1999 and 2019, while community health centers serve more than 30 million patients each year, according to the award statements.
By understanding health patterns of communities through data, rural healthcare organizations can better position themselves to provide necessary health services.
Community health centers have been the frontline for underserved communities where healthcare inequities were amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic. These HRSA-funded health centers have specific initiatives to reach homeless populations, agricultural workers, residents of public housing and communities of color.
Increasing data diversity at community health centers can improve equitable access to care and expose obstacles to access in a timely fashion.
Earlier in the year, HHS awarded community health centers $55 million to increase virtual healthcare access and another $16.3 million for telehealth at Title X family planning clinics to address health inequalities.
ON THE RECORD
“Among the most important steps we can take to improve access to health care in rural communities, including access to behavioral health care, is to invest in growing the rural healthcare workforce,” HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson said in a statement.
“Health centers are that trusted resource in the highest-risk and hardest-hit communities in the country. As we recognize the heroic work of the frontline healthcare workers who make health centers what they are, today we also are investing in the tools they need to help them continue to best serve their communities,” said Johnson in a second announcement.