On November 16, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Rural Health marked its 50th anniversary, coinciding with National Rural Health Day. Over the course of the 2022 fiscal year, this office served over 618,000 patients in rural communities, maintained 240 contracts, and operated several health centers. The economic impact of the office amounted to $53 million, including $25 million in employee compensation.
The director of the Office of Rural Health, Maggie Sauer, emphasized that this office was the first of its kind in the nation and that it runs a training program for healthcare workers called the Community Health Worker Training. This initiative was launched in October 2014 and was designed to train and provide rural communities with healthcare practitioners. In addition to this effort, a North Carolina Community Health Worker Summit was organized to address rural healthcare challenges by bringing together policymakers, community members, and health workers.
Deputy Director George Pink from North Carolina’s Rural Health Research Program highlighted another significant issue affecting rural communities across the United States: a shortage of primary care practitioners. This is particularly concerning as rural residents are often more likely to be uninsured or eligible for Medicaid expansion which is set to become effective on December 1st . However, there are several federal programs and loan repayment initiatives available to incentivize healthcare professionals to work in rural areas.