The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Rural Health recently marked its 50th anniversary, coinciding with National Rural Health Day. During the 2022 fiscal year, this office served over 618,000 patients in rural communities and maintained 240 contracts. Additionally, several health centers were operated by the office. 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 highlighted a training program for healthcare workers called the Community Health Worker Training. This initiative was launched in October 2014 and aimed to train and provide rural communities with healthcare practitioners. As part of this effort, a North Carolina Community Health Worker Summit was organized to bring together policymakers, community members, and health workers to address rural healthcare challenges.
George Pink, the deputy director of the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program, pointed out that there is a shortage of primary care practitioners in almost all rural areas across the United States. It was also reported that rural residents are 40 percent more likely to be uninsured and eligible for Medicaid expansion, which is set to become effective on December 1st. The federal government offers a range of programs and loan repayment initiatives to incentivize healthcare professionals to work in rural areas.