HHS Awards $11 Million to Establish New Rural Residency Programs

Department of Health and Human Services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), has awarded over $11 million to 15 organizations to establish new residency programs in rural communities. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and White House Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden announced the awards during a visit to a rural health clinic in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.

This funding initiative aims to address healthcare disparities in rural areas, which often face significant challenges in accessing high-quality medical care. One notable program will create the country’s first obstetrics and gynecology Rural Track Program. Additionally, six new family medicine residency programs with enhanced obstetrical training will be developed in rural communities.

“Every American should have access to high-quality health care no matter where they live. That is why HHS is investing in programs that improve and expand access in geographic areas that have historically been underserved,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Training more doctors in our country’s rural areas is a proven strategy to recruit and retain doctors to serve rural communities. By funding new residency programs focused on OB-GYN training, we can help eliminate maternal care deserts, an important step in making pregnancy and childbirth safer.”

The HRSA’s Enhancing Maternal Health Initiative is a cornerstone of this effort. By focusing on training physicians in obstetrics and gynecology, the program aims to combat the shortage of maternal care providers in rural areas. Maternal care deserts—areas with no or limited access to maternity care—pose serious risks for pregnant women, including higher rates of complications and poor birth outcomes.

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“Rural communities need physicians, and the Health Resources and Services Administration is committed to helping build this workforce through steps like our work to create rural residency programs,” said HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson. “This funding will help build pathways for rural students to become doctors and help rural communities recruit and train more doctors. We are particularly pleased to support new programs aimed at training new physicians to care for pregnant women.”

Each award recipient will receive up to $750,000 over three years. These funds will cover accreditation costs, curriculum development, faculty recruitment and retention, resident recruitment activities, and consultation services for program development. Many recipients will implement a Rural Track Program, allowing residents to gain experience in rural settings and increasing healthcare access in these areas.

Improving Rural Healthcare: Training Tomorrow’s Doctors for a Healthier America

Rural America faces unique healthcare challenges, often characterized by fewer healthcare providers, longer travel distances to medical facilities, and limited specialty care. Establishing residency programs in rural areas is a strategic approach to address these issues. Research shows that physicians are more likely to practice in areas where they complete their residency training. By embedding new doctors in rural communities, these programs aim to create a sustainable healthcare workforce.

The focus on maternal health is particularly critical. The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among developed countries, and rural areas are disproportionately affected. By training more OB-GYNs in these regions, the HHS initiative seeks to improve maternal health outcomes, reduce mortality rates, and ensure that women receive the care they need throughout pregnancy and childbirth.

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Moreover, the initiative highlights a commitment to equitable healthcare access. Ensuring that rural populations receive the same quality of care as urban residents is essential for reducing health disparities and achieving better overall public health.

In summary, the HHS’s $11 million investment in rural residency programs represents a significant step toward improving healthcare access and quality in underserved areas. By focusing on training new physicians, particularly in maternal health, the initiative aims to create a lasting positive impact on rural healthcare infrastructure and patient outcomes. This effort aligns with broader goals of health equity and supports the well-being of all Americans, regardless of where they live.

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