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ARHA Concludes Statewide Listening Sessions | Develops 2020 Policy Agenda

The Alabama Rural Health Association recently concluded its four-part statewide Policy Road Show with a board retreat to develop its 2020 Policy Agenda.

The Policy Road Shows opened opportunities for constituents across Alabama to voice their opinions on major healthcare issues in their communities.  More than 250 attendees were able to provide feedback.  The Road Show events took place in Rainsville, Wetumpka, Livingston, and Enterprise.

ARHA directors and advisory board members gathered after the final Road Show to study results and determine policies and legislation that would best help to accomplish the desires of constituents.  After robust discussion, the following was proposed:

  • Medicaid expansion / increased Medicaid funding
    • Pursue approaches to Medicaid improvements, including considerations of Medicaid expansion and/or increased reimbursement for current Medicaid covered services.
  • Physician and dental rural tax credit bill
    • Pursue a physician tax credit bill to help recruit physicians to rural areas.
  • Behavioral health and oral health improvement
    • Support behavioral health and oral health in Alabama for structural, access, and reimbursement improvements.
  • Health promotion (including health literacy) and focus on social determinants
    • Support health promotion efforts statewide (including health education, health literacy, and health system advocacy and navigation) and policies and legislation that would support or assist with health promotion.
  • Telehealth
    • Support expansion and reimbursability of telehealth statewide. This may include support of a parity law.
  • Public/private insurance reform
    • Support various public/private insurance reform issues.
  • Tax credit bill for physicians who serve in preceptor roles for student physicians.
    • Support for a tax credit bill for physicians / providers who teach students as a preceptor to help with recruitment of physicians in rural areas.
  • Transportation
    • Support for emergency and non-emergency medical transportation support.
  • Vaccinations
    • Support for continued use of immunizations and vaccinations of patients.
  • Advance physician extenders
    • Support for nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other healthcare providers that extend care into underserved areas and to provide needed care as appropriate.
  • Access to healthy food
    • Support for rural grocery stores, farmers markets, and subsequent nutrition education in rural communities.
  • Social determinants
    • Support for recognition and support of social determinants of health in order to improve patient compliance and outcomes.
  • Broadband support
    • Support for the advancement of broadband in rural Alabama for increased internet speed for electronic medical record systems and telehealth.
  • Chronic disease prevention and compliance
    • Support preventive services related to chronic health conditions as well as treatment services.
  • Encourage additional health system collaboration
    • Encouragement of new partnerships, whether direct or indirect, to increase resources and decrease cost for value-based care and access to care.

The Alabama Rural Health Association would like to thank each member and constituent who participated in the Road Shows, and each board member and advisory board member who participated in the planning and execution of the events as well as worked to develop the 2020 Alabama Rural Health Policy Agenda.

For more information, contact the Alabama Rural Health Association at 334.697.8541 or arha@arhaonline.org.

Jackson County physician selected as ‘Community Star’ for National Rural Health Day

National Rural Health Day is an annual observance that emphasizes the importance of rural America and promotes the need for accessible, high quality health care. National Rural Health Day falls on the third Thursday in November each year and recognizes the efforts of those serving the health needs of over 60 million people across the nation. This year’s observance will be on November 21.

The Alabama Department of Public Health’s Office of Primary Care and Rural Health (OPCRH), the Alabama Family Practice Rural Health Board, the Alabama Hospital Association, the Alabama Primary Health Care Association, the Alabama Rural Health Association, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham Rural Hospital Resource Center are proud to recognize the innovation, quality of care, and dedication of health professionals and volunteers in the state during National Rural Health Day 2019.

This year, Dr. Muhammad Ata of Pisgah, Ala., a true champion of rural health care, has been selected as a “Community Star” for his many contributions in rural communities. The annual “Community Stars” eBook publication honors and gives a personal voice to rural people, providers, advocates and communities across the country. His story will appear in the 2019 eBook that will be available on the PowerofRural.org website, the official hub for National Rural Health Day and the Power of Rural movement, beginning November 21.

Rural health care professionals, hospitals, county health departments, and clinics are dedicated to providing health care in Alabama’s 54 rural counties, which are home to almost 2 million people. These rural communities have unique health care needs and challenges, including the distance to nearest health care facility. In addition, these counties have a population that is generally older, and with health conditions that require a greater need for health care.

Rural hospitals are the economic foundation of many rural communities, but they are being threatened with declining reimbursement rates and disproportionate funding levels that make it more difficult to serve their residents. The OPCRH is dedicated to addressing these issues through a number of programs, such as the following:

·        Loan repayments for physicians, dentists and other health care professionals through the National Health Service Corps
·        No-cost recruitment of physicians using a national recruitment and retention database
·        Adoption of telehealth services to bring distant health care to the local community
·        Designation of physician and dental shortage areas for federal assistance programs
·        Assisting rural clinics in becoming certified to receive enhanced medical payments

In addition, OPCRH works closely with rural hospitals and safety net providers to identify problems and provide needed technical assistance and resources. More than 170 health care providers are presently working throughout the state under programs administered by the office, dispersed among the state’s 154 community health center service delivery sites, 109 rural health clinics, and other providers. The OPCRH’s services are available to any rural health care organization that is dedicated to providing accessible, high quality health care to its community.

Gov. Kay Ivey has issued a proclamation encouraging citizens to recognize the valuable services of rural health practitioners on this day.
To learn more, visit https://nosorh.org/calendar-events/nrhd/

The ARHA Supports the All of Us Research Program

About the All of Us Research Program

The All of Us Research Program began national enrollment on May 6, 2018, inviting people ages 18 and older, regardless of health status, to join this momentous effort to advance individualized prevention, treatment and care for people of all backgrounds. Part of the National Institutes of Health, All of Us is expected to be the largest and most diverse longitudinal health research program ever developed.

Participants are asked to share different types of health and lifestyle information, including through online surveys and electronic health records, which will continue to be collected over the course of the program. Those who join will have access to study information and data about themselves, with choices about how much or little they want to receive.

Data that are collected will be broadly accessible to researchers of all kinds, including citizen scientists, to support thousands of studies across a wide range of different health topics. By doing so, they are hoping to discover how to more precisely prevent and treat other health conditions. Knowledge gained from this research could help researchers improve health for generations to come.

Why All of Us is Important for Patients

Health care is often “one size fits all” and is not able to fully consider differences in individuals’ lifestyles, environments, or biological makeup. This is because we have limited data from past research studies about how those elements interact. The average patient is often prescribed drugs and treatments as if they are all the same. Learning more about the differences between individuals can help researchers develop tailored treatments and care for all people.

How All of Us Benefits Health Care Providers

Today there are too few conditions with evidence and options for individualized care. Too often, patients from underserved communities have not been included in clinical research, and our ability to care for diverse populations is diminished as a result. More data, discoveries, and tools can help providers to give their patients customized care more easily, especially for those communities that are disproportionately impacted by health issues.

Why Diversity Matters

Historically, many segments of the U.S. population have been left behind in medical research, including people of color, sexual/gender minorities, those with lower socioeconomic and educational status, rural communities, and other groups. The result is significant health disparities. The All of Us Research Program seeks to help fill in the gaps of information about those communities that previously have not been well represented.

How to Join the All of Us Research Program

The program is seeking one million or more people from all walks of life to participate in this historic endeavor. Those interested in joining the program can do so by visiting, www.JoinAllofUs.org. Enrollment is open to all eligible adults who live in the United States.

Behavioral Health Workforce Projections and Estimates of New Entrants

HRSA’s National Center for Health Workforce Analysis recently conducted analyses on the adult and pediatric mental health and substance abuse disorder workforce.

They have generated national-level projection estimates for the health workforce for the following behavioral health occupations between 2016 and 2030.  Click on the following links to view these estimates.

The Status of the Alabama Primary Care Physician Workforce (2018) – Policy Paper

Produced by the Office for Family Health Education & Research, UAB School of Medicine, this policy paper is designed to evaluate the availability of Alabama’s primary care physicians to Alabama residents using rational service areas (RSAs) for primary care (PCSAs) that are both descriptive and normative, based on spatial accessibility, and meet federal criteria for Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) Rational Service Areas.  It is also designed to establish the number of primary care physicians (PCPs) that are needed to allow Alabama’s residents access to a PCP within a 30 minute drive time from their residence location (spatial accessibility).

Policy Paper – The status of the Alabama primary care workforce

Alabama Primary Care Service Areas – Policy Paper

This policy paper, produced by the Office for Family Health Education & Research at the UAB School of Medicine, is designed to create primary care rational service areas (PCSA) for Alabama that are both descriptive and normative, based on spatial accessibility and which meet federal criteria for HRSA Rational Service Areas (RSA).  In addition, it will establish an Alabama statewide network of federally defined PCSAs that serve as geographic units wherein defined populations of Alabama residents have access to primary care physicians at a functional geographic level (spatial accessibility).

Policy Paper- Alabama Primary Care Service Areas