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Embracing Technology to Support Healthy Kids in Rural America

Rural children living in poverty face a range of health and human service needs, yet often lack access to quality clinical and social, human, child development and family support services. The implications are stark. A newly released HHS chartbook shows that rural children face greater health risks and are less likely to get preventive care, compared to their suburban and urban counterparts.  

Children receiving a preventive medical care visit in the previous year

HHS, in partnership with the White House Rural Council's new “Rural Impact” effort to combat rural child poverty, is exploring innovative new strategies to better serve rural kids and families. Today, HHS's Federal Office of Rural Health Policy is announcing new funding to bridge the gap between rural families and critical health and social services. The program—totaling $2.8 million over three years—will support telehealth technology linking children in rural communities to medical specialists and social service resources that may not be available locally.  

Imagine: a child living in a remote rural community can be seen and diagnosed for autism over the internet by a specialist based hundreds of miles away.

Or a child with diabetes can receive primary care at their rural health clinic and then connect remotely to an endocrinologist in another city.  At the same time, his family can receive nutrition counseling and, if food security is a challenge, be directed to a food bank.

"This funding aligns with the White House Rural Council's ongoing work to identify innovative strategies to support rural families living in poverty," said Jim Macrae, Acting Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration. "What's unique about this effort is that it seeks to use telehealth beyond the critical health care setting to meet a broad range of social service needs faced by low-income rural children and their families."

Identifying creative ways to coordinate both health care and social services in a rural community for impoverished families is a big part of the White House Rural Council’s Rural IMPACT Initiative. Stay tuned this summer for more news from the White House Rural Council as we continue to explore innovative strategies to improve the health and well-being of families living in rural America.

Doug O’Brien is Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs with the White House Domestic Policy Council.