Thursday, on National Rural Health Day, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more than $10 million in grants through two U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs to improve access to health care for rural Americans across the nation.
“Delivering these programs to rural communities that often do not have access to quality, affordable medical and educational services has tremendous economic and social benefits,” Vilsack said. “They also mean that people who live and work in rural areas will not have to travel long distances for specialized health care services. These investments mean that students in rural high schools will have educational opportunities often not available outside urban areas.”
Through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program, USDA has helped hundreds of rural communities deliver care in remote areas since it began two decades ago. Thursday, USDA’s Rural Development awarded $20.4 million in grants that will provide rural Americans access to medical services, improve educational opportunities, and support Native American communities. Fiscal Year 2014 Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant recipients
Rural residents are more likely to report a fair to poor health status and have higher rates of health complications, morbidity and mortality due to challenges associated with low levels of employment and education, geographic barriers and isolation, lack of quality nutrition and health education, and lack of access to health care.
USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is awarding 12 grants totaling more than $1.4 million to universities aimed at enhancing the quality of life in rural areas through improved health and safety education efforts. NIFA funded the grants through the Rural Health and Safety Education program which addresses these challenges by developing programs that provide the necessary health information to rural residents. The program has three main focus areas: 1) individual and family nutrition and health education; 2) farm safety education; and 3) rural health leadership development education.
Projects funded in fiscal year 2014 focus on a diversity of rural health and safety issues, from diabetes education, obesity prevention, and physical activity and healthy nutrition education, to eco-healthy child care promotion, and rural expansion of 4-H Healthy Living program.