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UA Center Awarded $3.4M to Support Rural Health in Arizona

For more than 35 years, the center has worked to improve the health and wellness of rural and vulnerable populations in Arizona.

Dr. Derksen testifying at a U.S. Committee on Ways and Means on rural health care disparities.

Dr. Derksen testifying at a U.S. Committee on Ways and Means on rural health care disparities.

Rural communities in the United States face a host of problems when it comes to access to health care. In rural Arizona, challenges include fewer health professionals, hospitals and clinics and a higher percentage of the rural population that is uninsured and elderly.

When rural hospitals close, as was the case in Douglas, Arizona, last year, it affects not only the health professionals who lose their jobs. Such closures also have a catastrophic economic impact on the health infrastructure in the community, such as the pharmacy and nursing home, and on individuals having to travel long distances to receive needed health care.

In response, the University of Arizona Center for Rural Health at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health has been improving the health and wellness of rural and vulnerable populations in Arizona for more than 35 years. As a federally designated State Office of Rural Health, the center will receive federal and matching state funds totaling $3.4 million to continue its mission over the next five years.

"The center is ideally suited to serve as Arizona's State Office of Rural Health," said Dr. Daniel Derksen, MD, professor and chair of the Community, Environment and Policy Department, and director of the Center for Rural Health.

"Arizona and our nation face great challenges in transforming our health system to improve health outcomes, enhance access to high-quality and cost-efficient health care, and assure coverage of health services," Derksen said. "This funding will allow us to leverage support to improve rural health care in Arizona."

The Health Resources and Services Administration awarded the five-year, $860,000 grant, and the state matches funds at $2.58 million to support the Arizona State Office of Rural Health program. The Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Health Resources and Services Administration grants help strengthen rural health care delivery systems by maintaining a center for rural health in each state. The program funds an institutional framework linking rural communities with state and federal resources to develop long-term solutions to rural health problems.

Funding allows the Center for Rural Health to:

  • Establish and maintain in Arizona a clearinghouse for collecting and disseminating information on rural health care issues, research findings and innovative approaches to the delivery of rural health care.
  • Coordinate rural health activities and avoid redundancy.
  • Identify federal and state rural health programs, and provide technical assistance to public and nonprofit private entities.

"Access to quality and affordable health care should not be determined by where you live," said Jennifer Peters, the center's rural program manager. "The center and our State Office of Rural Health program have been a long-serving and consistent voice for Arizona's rural health care system, including the most geographically isolated and underserved communities in the state."

The University of Arizona