On November 16th, the NC Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Rural Health celebrated its 50th anniversary, coinciding with National Rural Health Day. During fiscal year 2022, this office served over 618,000 patients in rural communities, maintained 240 contracts and operated several health centers. The office’s economic impact was $53 million, including $25 million in employee benefits.
Maggie Sauer, director of the Office of Rural Health, emphasized that this office is the first of its kind in the country and that it runs a training program for health workers called Community Health Worker Training. This initiative, launched in October 2014, is designed to train and provide rural communities with health workers. The North Carolina Community Health Worker Summit was organized as part of this effort, bringing together policymakers, community members and health care professionals to address the challenges of rural health care.
George Pink, deputy director of the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program, pointed out the lack of primary care practitioners in nearly all rural areas across the United States. It also reported that rural residents are 40 percent more likely to be uninsured and eligible for Medicaid expansion which is set to take effect Dec. 1st . The federal government offers a number of programs and loan repayment initiatives to encourage health workers to work in rural areas.