The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Rural Health marked its 50th anniversary on November 16, coinciding with National Rural Health Day. Over the course of the 2022 fiscal year, this office served over 618,000 patients in rural communities, maintained 240 contracts, and operated several health centers. 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 that it runs a training program for healthcare workers called the Community Health Worker Training. This initiative, launched in October 2014, was designed to train and provide rural communities with healthcare practitioners. North Carolina Community Health Worker Summit was organized as part of this effort, bringing 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, highlighted the 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 are eligible for Medicaid expansion, which is set to become effective on December 1. The federal government offers a range of programs and loan repayment initiatives to incentivize healthcare professionals to work in rural areas.