October 26, 2020 | Erin Bluvas, email@example.com
Twenty years after it was established, the Rural and Minority Health Research Center (renamed from the South Carolina Health Research Center in 2018) continues to grow in its contributions and reputation at the national level. In September of this year, the Department of Health and Human Services released the Rural Action Plan, the first assessment of rural healthcare efforts in more than 18 years.
Comprised of rural experts and leaders across HHS, the Rural Task Force developed the plan based on the work and input of rural researchers and organizations, such as the Rural and Minority Health Research Center. The work of Peiyin Hung, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Services Policy and Management and a core faculty member with the Center, was heavily relied upon throughout the plan as well.
“Over the past two decades, the Center has engaged rural residents and providers into our rural health services research as we work to illuminate and address the health inequities experienced by rural and minority populations,” says Hung, who notes that the Rural Action Plan cited much of the Center’s work (e.g., Federal Office of Rural Health Policy’s Rural Health Research Center Program, National Cancer Institute-funded rural cancer control projects, CDC-funded sexually transmitted disease prevention project) in its section on strategies to transform rural health and human services. “These projects signal the Rural and Minority Health Research Center’s committed role in rural action plans in the past, now and moving forward.”
Hung’s own work, in the areas of evaluating rural healthcare delivery models, identifying effective clinical and policy intervention, and engaging interdisciplinary rural health stakeholders, was also featured in the plan. The Rural Action Plan cited seven of Hung’s published papers, including studies on the context of disparities in rural health, the effects of rural payment reforms, and spatial temporal trends in access to childbirth care.
This research helps shape the framework of the actions needed to fight rural health disparities and provides evidence to inform clinical interventions and policy changes. In addition to her published research, Hung’s work as a panelist in improving access to maternal health services in rural communities and her role as a co-chair of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services workgroup on rural maternal health were both reflected in the plan.
Based on the research of Hung, the Rural and Minority Health Research Center and other experts/organizations in the field, the Rural Action Plan aims to improve rural health through multi-sector investments and initiatives. Its goal is to leverage collective efforts to invest in rural communities (e.g., technology, transportation, EMS resources, other infrastructure to improve factors related to social determinants of health).
“I am hopeful that the strategies highlighted in this plan will be integrated to achieve sustainability and improve maternal and infant health in rural communities. I am also hopeful that rural hospital closures will be ameliorated given the flexibilities offered by Medicare programs, which may improve financial viabilities by small rural hospitals at risk of closures,” Hung says. “Rural communities have been facing multiple challenges and these challenges can vary from one community to another, and I foresee that our team at the Rural and Minority Health Research Center will play an integral part of contributing to the national dialogue in rural health, by rigorous research, policy analysis, stakeholder engagement, and community outreach.”