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HHS and USDA Collaborating Since 2012 to Improve Local Access to Healthcare in Rural America

It has been five years since the President announced that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) signed an agreement to streamline how our programs work together to support rural health and to improve the health and wellbeing of rural communities through the use of technology and health information that is accessible when and where it matters most.

In those five years, rural communities and rural health care providers in every state and territory have accessed USDA financing and HHS technical assistance to help improve local access to care and, and to support an interoperable health system.

Secretary's Column: Getting Covered is Good for Rural America

Cross posted from the Huffington Post:

Living in a rural community shouldn't have to come with a hefty price tag for healthcare. On this National Rural Health Day, we celebrate the fact that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it no longer has to.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is already making a difference in the lives of millions of rural Americans. Prior to the ACA, many rural families had a hard time finding affordable insurance coverage, paying an average of nearly half of their costs out of their own pockets. Many didn't have access to affordable health insurance through an employer because they were self-employed as farmers, ranchers or rural business owners and entrepreneurs. While those folks take calculated business risks every day, their health should not be one of them.

Connecting Healthcare and Nutrition through the Summer Food Service Program

"Two is better than one."  Holding true to this timeless adage, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is teaming up with the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to expand the reach of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).  FNS strives to increase food security and reduce hunger by providing children and low-income people access to food, while HRSA is the primary Federal agency for improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable.  There is an intrinsic mission overlap between FNS and HRSA given that their services target similar populations, and they have found a way to collaborate by rallying around SFSP.

Secretary's Column: A Health Care Law for Rural America

Two years ago last week, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act – the law that gives hard working, middle-class families the health security they deserve.

For too long, rural Americans have been getting the short end of the health care stick, with limited options, fewer doctors and nurses, and more expensive insurance.  But the new law is building a stronger health system in rural communities – increasing payments to rural health care providers, strengthening Medicare, and training thousands of new primary care doctors who will serve in rural areas.

Improving the Quality of Life for Rural Maine Cancer Patients though Telemedicine

Maine has one of the highest per capita rates of cancer in the United States, and for many cancer patients living in rural areas of the state, a long drive into a bigger city to receive necessary medical treatment can be daunting.  Snowy Maine winters, the high cost of gasoline, relying on family or friends to drive when a patient is not feeling well, and the sheer exhaustion that comes with traveling 140 miles round trip or longer can take its toll on a cancer patient. Now, thanks in part to a USDA Rural Development Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant, many patients will be able to receive the highest quality care and treatment without having to leave their own rural communities.

Under Secretary Marks 60th Year of USDA Telecommunications at Cooperstown, New York Event

It was great to have Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager on hand for our combined event with Bassett Healthcare on Tuesday. The event highlighted the 60th anniversary of our Telecommunications Program and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Amy, a breast cancer survivor, spoke to the crowd about the importance of breast cancer screenings and early detection, which is crucial to curing the disease. Her remarks about being the mother of two boys, as well as a wife, daughter and sister were truly moving. I'm proud that my agency has made such a positive contribution to women's health in this very rural part of our state.