Social Isolation’s Impact on Health Outcomes and Health Spending

Taken from

Research has that found that both social isolation and loneliness increase mortality across age, gender, and country of origin. Specifically, one roundtable participant noted a recent meta-analysis based on a comprehensive literature search (a review of publications from 1980 to 2014 on 3.4 million subjects) that found a 29 percent increased risk of mortality associated with social isolation and a 26 percent increased risk of loneliness, which were both consistent worldwide. Roundtable participants also explored other recent research that compared social isolation with well-established risk factors and that recognized that isolation could be an even bigger public health threat than smoking or obesity and that it could raise the risk of premature death by up to 50 percent.

With these statistics in mind, roundtable participants also discussed the significant impact of social isolation on health care spending. They noted a recent collaborative study by the AARP, Stanford University, and Harvard University that found the Medicare program spends an estimated $134 more per person monthly ($1,608 annually) for every socially isolated older adult, compared with those who were not socially isolated—a level of spending comparable to what Medicare pays for certain chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure or arthritis. In total, the study estimated that a lack of social contact among older adults is associated with an estimated $6.7 billion in additional Medicare spending annually.

Given the significant health and economic impacts of social isolation and loneliness, roundtable participants agreed the time is now to develop collaborative solutions to improve social connectedness, particularly among the nation’s rural and aging seniors.

An Evaluation of the Effectiveness of the Alabama Board of Medical Scholarship Awards

The Alabama Board of Medical Scholarship Awards (BMSA) is an Alabama legislature program that was created as an incentive to increase the supply of primary care physicians (family practice, internal medicine, and pediatrics) and encourage their practice in the state’s rural medically underserved communities. Application for educational loans are available to all students enrolled in medical schools in the State of Alabama. Each loan recipient enters into a contractual agreement with the Board of Medical Scholarship Awards whereby the recipient agrees to practice primary care in a medically underserved community. For default or termination of a loan the recipient is required to repay the principle of the loan plus a penalty of up to 200% of the total principle amount of the loan.

The failure of a loan recipient to perform his or her contractual agreement with the Board of Medical Scholarship Awards or to pay the amount he or she is liable for under this program shall constitute a ground for the revocation of his or her license to practice medicine.

143 primary care residency graduates have completed or are currently fulfilling their service obligations.

The effectiveness of the BMSA educational loan program was evaluated using criteria based on stated intent as expressed in the Alabama legislature and standard metrics for measuring outcomes of educational loans, scholarships and incentives. The criteria used to evaluate the effectiveness this program were:

  • Increase the supply of primary care physicians in the state of Alabama
  • Encourage practice in the state’s rural medically underserved communities
  • Attract young primary care physicians to rural Alabama (replace Alabama’s aging rural primary care physician workforce)
  • Prudent use of state dollars

New ARHA Church Directory for Healthy Living

Churches throughout rural Alabama have the desire for professionals to come in and provide health fairs, screens, or classes to assist their congregates with physical health.  This directory is designed to allow churches to sign-up to receive such assistance as available, and also to connect those wishing to provide assistance with churches willing to accept it.  There is no cost to participate, and the sign-up form takes less than 2 minutes to complete.

Click here to access the sign-up form and begin the journey of healthy living with us!

Tell Us Your Story

One priority of the Alabama Rural Health Association is to magnify your voice to legislators, policy advisors, and officials.  But to do this, we need to hear your story so that we can tell it for you.

Have you had issues with one of the following?

  • Delayed or incorrect insurance payments?
  • Increased cost due to specific regulatory burdens?
  • Decreased revenue due to funding or reimbursement cuts?
  • Significant delays with enrolling with public or private insurance?
  • Issues with obtaining an NPI number in a timely fashion?

Contact us at to inform us of any issues that you have experienced so that we can assist you and tell your story.  When you reach us, please provide as much detail as possible.

ARHA joins All of Us Research Program to advance precision medicine

Enrollment set to open nationwide for historic research effort

On May 6, the National Institutes of Health will open national enrollment for the All of Us Research Program—a momentous effort to advance individualized prevention, treatment and care for people of all backgrounds—in collaboration with the Alabama Rural Health Association (ARHA) and other partners. People ages 18 and older, regardless of health status, will be able to enroll. The official launch date will be marked by community events in cities across the country as well as an online event. ARHA is a participant at an event at Railroad Park in Birmingham with a variety of engaging activities and speakers.

Volunteers will join more than 25,000 participants across the United States who have already enrolled in All of Us as part of a year-long beta test to prepare for the program’s national launch. The overall aim is to enroll 1 million or more volunteers and oversample communities that have been underrepresented in research to make the program the largest, most diverse resource of its kind.

“The time is now to transform how we conduct research—with participants as partners—to shed new light on how to stay healthy and manage disease in more personalized ways. This is what we can accomplish through All of Us,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

Precision medicine is an emerging approach to disease treatment and prevention that considers differences in people’s lifestyles, environments and biological makeup, including genes. By partnering with 1 million diverse people who share information about themselves over many years, the All of Us Research Program will enable research to more precisely prevent and treat a variety of health conditions.

“All of us are unique, but today we live mostly in an era of ‘one-size-fits-all’ medicine,” said Eric Dishman, director of the All of Us Research Program. “I’m alive today because of precision medicine and I think everyone deserves that same opportunity no matter the color of your skin, your economic status, your age or your sex or gender. In other words, it will truly take all of us.”

All of Us seeks to transform the relationship between researchers and participants, bringing them together as partners to inform the program’s directions, goals and responsible return of research information. Participants will be able to access their own health information, summary data about the entire participant community and information about studies and findings that come from All of Us.

ARHA President Farrell Turner stated “the ARHA supports better health and healthy lifestyles of all Alabamians, especially those in rural areas.  This project can help facilitate these changes.”

Participants are asked to share different types of health and lifestyle information, including through online surveys and electronic health records (EHRs), which will continue to be collected over the course of the program. At different times over the coming months and years, some participants will be asked to visit a local partner site to provide blood and urine samples and to have basic physical measurements taken, such as height and weight. To ensure that the program gathers information from all types of people, especially those who have been underrepresented in research, not everyone will be asked to give physical measures and samples. In the future, participants may be invited to share data through wearable devices and to join follow-up research studies, including clinical trials.

Also in future phases of the program, children will be able to enroll, and the program will add more data types, such as genetic data. In addition, data from the program will be broadly accessible for research purposes. Ultimately, the All of Us Research program will be a rich and open data resource for traditional academic researchers as well as citizen scientists—and everyone in between.

NIH has funded more than 100 organizations throughout the U.S. to be partners in the program.  On the program’s May 6 launch date, the All of Us Research Program will host special events in diverse communities around the country.

People also may take part in social media activities (#JoinAllofUs) or tune in at to watch speakers across the country talk about precision medicine and the power of volunteering for research.

To learn more about the program and how to join, please visit

“All of Us” is a registered service mark of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).