HHS puts $48M toward rural public health IT, workforce expansion

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced this week that it was making almost $48 million available in American Rescue Plan funding for public health capacity in rural and tribal communities, through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy.  

The money can be used to address health IT needs, as well as to expand the public health workforce in continued response to COVID-19.  

“This investment is part of our ongoing efforts to address health workforce needs in rural and underserved communities,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement. “As we build a healthier nation, we will continue to promote health equity and strengthen rural health.”  


According to a press release from HHS, the agency is seeking to increase the number of healthcare professionals and connect them with future employers.  

Funding recipients will be tasked with establishing community health networks, composed of institutions such as tribal colleges and universities, minority-serving institutions, nursing homes, rural health clinics or nursing homes, among others.  

HRSA said it anticipates upwards of 30 award recipients will be able to create formal training or certification programs focused on: 

  • Community health support
  • Health IT technical support
  • Telehealth technical support
  • Community para-medicine
  • Case management staff 
  • Respiratory therapy  

“This funding will help advance HRSA’s mission of developing a health care workforce capable of meeting the critical needs of rural and other often underserved populations,” said Acting HRSA Administrator Diana Espinosa in a statement.  

“The Rural Public Health Workforce Training Network Program will create stronger links between training programs and the health care entities that ultimately employ their participants, a key strategy for increasing recruitment and retention in rural areas,” she continued.   Applications are now open and will close on March 18, said the agency.  


The Biden administration has allocated billions of dollars toward strengthening the public health job sector, amid reports of burnout and employee shortages.  

For instance, in May, the White House said it planned to invest $7.4 billion in American Rescue Funds to hire and train workers.  

The following month, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT said it would launch a new $80 million workforce development plan, specifically aimed at informatics and data reporting.  


“The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of a robust public health workforce to keep Americans safe and healthy, especially in communities that have experienced long-standing health disparities,” said Becerra.  

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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