On November 16, the Office of Rural Health in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services marked its 50th anniversary, 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.
Maggie Sauer, director of the Office of Rural Health, emphasized that this office was the first of its kind in the nation and that it runs a training program for healthcare workers called Community Health Worker Training. This initiative was launched in October 2014 and is designed to train and provide rural communities with healthcare practitioners. As part of this effort, the North Carolina Community Health Worker Summit was organized, bringing together policymakers, community members, and health workers to address rural healthcare challenges.
George Pink, deputy director of the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program highlighted that there is a shortage of primary care practitioners across almost all rural areas across the United States. It was also reported that rural residents are 40 percent more likely to be uninsured than urban residents and are eligible for Medicaid expansion which is set to become effective on December 1st. The federal government offers a range of programs and loan repayment initiatives to incentivize healthcare professionals to work in rural areas.