Source: Press Release

Disclosures: Healio Primary Care could not confirm relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.
November 18, 2021
4 min read

AMA seeks to close rural workforce gap

Source: Press Release

Disclosures: Healio Primary Care could not confirm relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.
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The AMA recently announced that it is strengthening its efforts to increase the rural physician workforce.

CDC data indicate that in 2019, the age-adjusted death rates in urban areas was 693.4 per 100,000 people. In rural areas, this rate was 834 per 100,000 people.

United States Health Care
The AMA announced efforts to help close the health gap between urban and rural areas.
Photo source: Adobe stock

According to the National Rural Health Association, the patient-to-primary care physician ratio in urban areas is 53.3 physicians per 100,000 people, compared with 39.8 PCPs per 100,000 people in rural areas.

“For the nearly 60 million people who live in rural communities across America, persistent inequities continue to place barriers on access to medical care, resulting in devastatingly higher rates of mortality and preventable hospitalizations for this patient population,” Scott Ferguson, MD, a member of the AMA board of trustees, said in a press release. “There is a clear, urgent need for more physicians to serve in rural America to help close existing gaps in patient care.”

The AMA said in the release that it updated its policy on rural health to focus on “multifaceted educational strategies” that will help increase the rural physician workforce and advance initiatives that “encourage the pursuit of and exposure to rural training opportunities that reach patients in the greatest need of access to care.”

The AMA said it will also continue to:

  • recommend that Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education review committees consider adding exposure to rural medicine as applicable, create rural program tracks in training programs and enhance physician awareness of the conditions that create obstacles and hinder resource availability in rural locations;
  • advocate for the use of additional virtual educational content to increase smaller training programs;
  • review the 2020 U.S. Census report to determine the impact of physician supply and patient demand in rural communities;
  • increase the impact of initiatives to address rural physician workforce shortages; and
  • initiate a study to investigate “structural urbanism, federal payment policies and the result it leaves on rural workforce disparities.”

The AMA’s announcement came several days before National Rural Health Day, a commemoration organized by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health. It is held on the third Thursday of each November.

National Rural Health Day, now in its 12th year, showcases “the unique health care challenges that rural citizens face” and highlights the endeavors that rural health care providers and stakeholders engage in to overcome those challenges, organizers said.

In recognition of National Rural Health Day, Healio Primary Care compiled a list of recent stories about health disparities in rural communities.

6 tips for treating rural patients with obesity

The CDC said in 2018, obesity prevalence was significantly higher among adults living in rural counties than among those living in metropolitan counties. In this guest commentary, Wickham Simonds, MD, FOMA, a member of the Obesity Medicine Association’s board of trustees, discusses six ways physicians in rural areas can help their patients with obesity. Read more.

Racial CVD disparities minimally improved in rural areas over past 2 decades

From 1999 to 2018, Black adults in rural communities continuously experienced a greater risk for death from diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke compared with white adults, researchers reported. Read more.

COVID-19 vaccination coverage lower in rural communities

As of April 10, COVID-19 vaccination coverage was almost seven percentage points lower in rural U.S. counties compared with urban counties, researchers found — a disparity they said could hinder progress toward ending the pandemic. Read more.

Early-onset colorectal cancer incidence higher among rural vs. urban populations

Residents of rural areas demonstrated higher rates of early-onset colorectal cancer and greater increases in incidence than residents of urban areas, according to study results published in Cancer. Read more.

'It makes a difference where you live': Lupus nephritis mortality highest in central metros

Race and residence are both independently associated with lupus nephritis mortality, with Black patients and those living in large central metropolitan areas demonstrating the highest rates, according to data presented at ACR Convergence 2021. Read more.

Females in rural areas less likely to have OB/GYN appointments

Females aged 15 to 44 years living in rural areas were significantly less likely than their urban counterparts to have had an office visit with a physician, including OB/GYNs, a 10-year pooled analysis showed. Read more.

Gastrointestinal outcomes prevalent among rural patients with COVID-19

Gastrointestinal manifestations were prevalent among rural patients in Pennsylvania with COVID-19, with around a quarter reporting diarrhea — higher than in past studies — according to data reported in Open Forum Infectious Diseases. Read more.

TeleSleep program improves access to care for rural veterans

TeleSleep — a telehealth program offered by the Veterans Health Administration Office of Rural Health — improved access to care for sleep-related disorders, researchers reported. Read more.

Youth from rural communities at increased risk for firearm-related suicide

Interventions that help limit youth access to handguns during moments of crisis may especially benefit rural-remote communities, according to results of a cross-sectional study published in JAMA Network Open. Read more.

Study outlines rural PCP preferences when treating older adults with depression

Rural primary care physicians reported comfortability with remote consultation for older patients with depression but wanted more collegial communication with these consultants, according to study findings. Read more.


AMA. AMA tackles rural health care challenges by addressing workforce gaps. Published Nov. 16, 2021. Accessed Nov. 17, 2021.

Curtin SC, et al. NCHS Data Brief. 2021;doi:10.15620/cdc:109049.

Health Resources & Services Administration. Celebrate National Rural Health Day. Accessed Nov. 17, 2021.

National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health. National Rural Health Day. Accessed Nov. 17, 2021.

National Rural Health Association. About rural health care. Accessed Nov. 17, 2021.