Involvement of State Offices of Rural Health in Emergency Preparedness Activities
This project followed up with the state offices of rural health (SORH) to identify their current involvement with emergency preparedness in rural areas, particularly in the use of funds earmarked for bioterrorism preparedness. In 2002, the federal Office of Rural Health Policy (ORHP) released its report on emergency preparedness in rural communities as perceived by directors of state offices of rural health. Results of this study indicated that although many of the state offices of rural health were participating in planning, office respondents in a number of states were concerned about their state's lack of resources for preparedness in rural areas. State directors expressed concerns over rural hospital workforce shortages and whether hospital and public health infrastructure capacity was adequate for meeting preparedness needs. Since release of this report, billions of dollars have been used by the states to strengthen their capacity to respond to bioterrorist threats and other emergencies resulting from terrorism. While general guidelines have been issued to assist state personnel with preparation of plans for use of these funds, whether funds are to be explicitly targeted to meet rural needs depends on decisions by personnel in the states.
Walsh Center staff re-surveyed rural offices of the states and re-visited issues that were raised in the earlier ORHP survey. Roles of the offices were identified and information on the extent of office resources devoted to bioterrorism preparedness were collected. Activities and roles of the most- and least-involved state offices were compared. A report and Policy Brief will be prepared for distribution to policymakers and persons on the Center mailing list.