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Minority Health

When people think of minority populations, they often think urban rather than rural communities. In fact, minorities comprise 15 percent of the total rural population and account for 30 percent of the rural poor population. Minorities face a myriad of problems ranging from chronic poverty among people in the Southeast, to a lack of stable medical care for migrant workers, to language barriers faced by newcomers to this country. Still others, such Native Americans, face barriers dealing with the Western approaches to medical treatment, that are not compatible with their culture. The Health Resources Service Administration's Office of Rural Health Policy (ORHP) has had a longstanding concern with the diverse health needs of rural minority populations.

The Office has sought to overcome the lack of National information on the health status of rural minority by funding a publication titled: Minorities and Rural Health, 1997-1998, a compilation of recent minority health research issues. ORHP also contributed to a special edition of the Department's Office of Minority Health newsletter, Closing the Gap featuring rural minority health issues. Moreover, the office has, for the past eight years, worked hard to bridge the gap in lack of service availability in this area. To that end, the office has targeted 20% of its rural Outreach grant funds to rural minority communities. The success of this initiative is highlighted in a report tilted Outreach Profiles on Latino-Hispanic Rural Health, which is available from the office.

In 1991, ORHP began working with the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), to promote the visibility of rural minorities. It has co-sponsored, for four consecutive years, conferences on rural minority health care interests. NRHA with ORHP's funding assistance, has now added a cultural diversity topic to its annual conference agendas. The fifth annual conference will be held in Denver, Colorado December 9-11, 1999. For registration information contact NRHA at 816-756-3140.

A seminal report issued in 1997 through NRHA and entitled A National Agenda for Rural Minority Health summarized key issues and made recommendations for further work in the areas of: information & data availability, health policy and practices, and health delivery systems. Currently, an NRHA multiyear initiative is underway seeking to find strategies and funding to implement some of these recommendations. ORHP, a partner in these activities, is involved securing the collaboration of other rural groups and diverse minority agencies.

In cooperation with the DHHS Secretary's Office of Minority Health, the Office has administered a special grant initiative for AIDS education and prevention among rural minority youth not currently exposed to existing education campaigns. Over a period of eight years, local coalitions of health and social service agencies have brought such education to young minorities in Alaska, New Mexico, Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia, and California. In 1997, ORHP initiated and provided major funding for the first Southeast regional conference to highlight the problem of delivering health care to rural minorities affected by HIV/AIDS. A report on innovative strategies for prevention and treatment was developed from that conference: Southeastern Conference on Rural HIV/AIDS: Issues in Prevention and Treatment conference Report.

For more information, Contact: HRSA, Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, Room 9-A-55, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD., 20857. Phone 301-443-0835.


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