Publications US - Supporting Rural Health: Practical Solutions for State Policymakers


Rural health has long been an area of concern for policymakers, with perennial challenges such as quality of care, workforce development, and the dearth of re-search that specifically addresses rural health challenges. The accelerating health and economic disparities between rural and suburban and urban populations high-light the need for evidence-based rural health initiatives. In view of these challeng-es, the Milbank Memorial Fund and the Reforming States Group (RSG) identified rural health as an issue of critical importance to state policymakers. In November and December 2018, the Fund conducted three RSG regional meet-ings. As part of those meetings, state health policy leaders from both the executive and legislative branches met with national experts to discuss rural health concerns and learn more about practical, actionable solutions to the most pressing issues. Based on presentations from federal and state officials, academic researchers, and policymakers regarding rural health concerns, several key themes emerged:

  • The importance of health care delivery models that promote and incentivizeinvestment in community health;
  • The need for workforce development, including development of programs totrain and retain providers in rural areas, including leveraging technology andtelehealth options where possible; and
  • The need for ongoing research and policy development specifically directed toward rural health.

This issue brief summarizes and expands upon the recent RSG rural health meetings, providing case studies highlighting successful models for each of these key themes, with the intent that policymakers may draw on these examples in other contexts. The primary audience for this brief is state policymakers, including legis-lators and executive branch staff who are responsible for rural health policy in their states. In addition to sharing experiences from states, the program was designed to link policymakers to the work of academic research organizations—particularly state universities—that can supply new evidence to inform policymaking