As USDA celebrates its 150 year anniversary; we remember many milestones such as the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) establishment in 1935. In the 1930’s, only about 10 percent of rural folks had electricity while people living in town had 90 percent coverage across the nation. With the assistance of REA funding, by 1942, nearly 50 percent of US farms had electricity, and by 1952 almost all US farms had electricity.
Fast forward and once again it is the USDA Rural Development Rural Utilities Service (RUS), formerly REA, that is pioneering innovative ways of service and infrastructure development for the rural areas of the nation.
A recent tour of Avera Health, headquartered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, showed that a USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program grantee is meeting the health care needs of rural South Dakota through telemedicine. Avera’s eCARE services provide rural patients 24-hour access to specialty care physicians and pharmacies through advanced information and communication technologies. The eEmergency, eICU, ePharmacy, and eConsult services were highlighted on the tour. For instance, eICU Care links rural intensive care units to an around-the-clock care team to the patient’s bedside every minute of the day. With direct tangible results such as 778 lives saved and a savings of more than $30 million with shorter ICU days stayed, the benefits are great.
The years have not diminished the challenges of living in a rural area. The lack of infrastructure, distance to services, and qualified workers continue to make quality healthcare a challenge. The years do show though how USDA Rural Development through RUS continues to make a difference to those that live, work and do business in rural America.
To find out more about Rural Utilities Programs, click here.