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Rural Health Information Hub

Healthcare Access in Rural Communities – Models and Innovations

These stories feature model programs and successful rural projects that can serve as a source of ideas and provide lessons others have learned. Some of the projects or programs may no longer be active. Read about the criteria and evidence-base for programs included.

Effective Examples

funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Regional Oral Health Pathway
Updated/reviewed August 2022
  • Need: To address the oral health needs of low-income uninsured and underinsured residents in rural Appalachia.
  • Intervention: An oral health education program was implemented in Appalachian Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
  • Results: This program increased oral health visits in the area and provided residents with valuable information on oral health resources and services.
funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy funded by the Health Resources Services Administration New Mexico Mobile Screening Program for Miners
Updated/reviewed December 2020
  • Need: To increase access to medical screening for miners in New Mexico.
  • Intervention: A mobile screening clinic with telemedicine capability screens miners for respiratory and other conditions.
  • Results: In a survey, 92% of miners reported their care as very good, while the other 8% reported it as good. The program has expanded to three other states.

Promising Examples

funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy The Health Wagon
Updated/reviewed January 2021
  • Need: Healthcare access in Central Appalachia for the medically underserved challenged by social and economic determinants of health, including transportation barriers, food insecurity, poverty, and lack of health insurance.
  • Intervention: Three mobile clinics and 2 stationary clinics provide free health care for people in 16 counties in Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
  • Results: By leveraging technology and meeting patients where they are, Health Wagon provided comprehensive healthcare services — including specialty care — to 5,500 patients during 16,000 visit encounters in 2020.
funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Bridges to Health
Updated/reviewed October 2020
  • Need: To reduce barriers to accessing healthcare for immigrant farmworkers in the rural areas of Vermont.
  • Intervention: Bridges to Health uses care coordination and health promoters to reduce barriers to accessing healthcare on an individual level. The program offers targeted technical assistance to address systemic barriers at health access points in areas with high numbers of immigrant farmworkers.
  • Results: Some barriers to accessing healthcare have been reduced or removed for immigrant farmworkers in certain counties.

Other Project Examples

funded by the Health Resources Services Administration Maine Critical Access Integrated Paramedics
Added August 2022
  • Need: With the nearest hospital more than an hour away, the local community health center in rural Jackman, Maine struggled to maintain its ability to offer 24/7 care to due to staffing and budgetary challenges.
  • Intervention: Critical Access Integrated Paramedics provide urgent care to patients after hours and on weekends.
  • Results: The Jackman Community Health Center has been able to offer round-the-clock care to clinic patients, while also increasing the level of EMS service available to the community.
Delta Dental Mobile Program
Updated/reviewed March 2022
  • Need: Lack of access to oral healthcare for children from limited-income families in the rural and urban areas of South Dakota.
  • Intervention: Delta Dental of South Dakota launched the Delta Dental Mobile Program in 2004 to expand access to oral healthcare services to children throughout the rural state.
  • Results: The Delta Dental Mobile Program has provided over $34 million in dental care to more than 63,000 South Dakota children.
funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Something to Smile About: Preventive Dental Care for Garrett County
Updated/reviewed July 2021
  • Need: In rural Garrett County, Maryland, a 1998 community survey found that 41% of kindergarten students had untreated dental decay, and many dentists in the area were not willing to see patients with medical assistance or state health insurance plans.
  • Intervention: In 1999, the Garrett County Health Department started the Something to Smile About program to improve access to dental care and help dentists negotiate higher reimbursement rates from managed care organizations.
  • Results: The program established a community dental clinic, provided care to thousands of individuals, and negotiated 30% higher rates for dental service reimbursement.
Remote Area Medical®
Updated/reviewed January 2021
  • Need: A lack of basic medical, dental, and vision care for people living in isolated, impoverished, and underserved areas.
  • Intervention: Free pop-up medical clinics that provide care through a highly efficient system that serves as many patients as possible, utilizing a corps of volunteers made up of licensed medical professionals and laypeople.
  • Results: Community members in rural and other underserved areas are provided with necessary healthcare and health education, including dental and vision services, at no cost to the patients or taxpayers.
Smiles for Life
Updated/reviewed November 2020
  • Need: Oral healthcare for low-income adults and children unable to obtain dental care in the Mid-Ohio Valley of West Virginia.
  • Intervention: Public health dental hygienists act as gatekeepers, screening low-income clients and placing them with area dental providers who volunteer from their private practices to provide needed dental treatment.
  • Results: Reduces the number of emergency department visits for dental pain and infections and provides a safety net for those unable to afford dental treatment.
funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Miles for Smiles Mobile Dental Unit
Updated/reviewed September 2020
  • Need: Dental care access for children in low-income families living in a 7-county region of southwest Missouri.
  • Intervention: A mobile dental unit was created to expand dental care access.
  • Results: The Miles for Smiles mobile dental clinic provides comprehensive dental care to children throughout the 7-county region.

Last Updated: 8/22/2022