An Innovative Approach to Targeting Rural Communities in Public Health Funding

Research center:
Lead researcher:
Project funded:
September 2021
Project completed:
March 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted troubling disparities in health access and outcomes for vulnerable populations. The high case incidence of COVID-19 in rural areas has had severe consequences for mortality. In addition to lower vaccination rates, this high rural mortality has been attributed to unique characteristics of the population in rural America as well as the limited public health and hospital infrastructure in rural communities. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2021, carved out $427 million in state funding to focus on combatting COVID-19 in rural communities as part of a multi-billion dollar national initiative to address COVID-19 related health disparities among at risk and underserved populations.

This project was designed to understand the circumstances around this unprecedented emphasis on rural America in the CDC's key initiatives. To do so, relevant decision-makers, key actors and stakeholders were interviewed. The analysis provided critical insight into the evolving relationship between the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy and the CDC over time, lessons learned from this particular grant program, and how those lessons might be able to be applied to future efforts to carve out rural-focused funds from broader grant projects.