|U.S. Department of Health & Human Services|
Health Resources and Services Administration
HRSA Press Office: (301) 443-3376
by HRSA Administrator Mary K. Wakefield
Thank you for the gracious introduction…It is my pleasure to be here to address your annual Board of Directors retreat.
I always begin by taking a few minutes to make sure everyone knows about what we do at HRSA. You may be surprised about the range of HRSA’s reach, and hopefully you’ll see potential avenues for collaboration with us, our programs and our staff.
HRSA is a $7.8 billion agency that proudly wears the mantle of being the ‘primary Federal agency charged with improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated or medically vulnerable.’
Today at HRSA we’ve acquired a new important focus, and that’s the implementation of provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the historic health care reform legislation President Obama signed in March. HRSA is the lead agency overseeing more than 50 different authorizations under the Act, and the co-lead agency on 16 others.
Most significantly to HRSA and the populations we serve, the Affordable Care Act provides $11 billion in funding over the next 5 years for the operation, expansion, and construction of health centers throughout the nation. This support will enable us to nearly double the number of health center patients by 2015.
Another $1.5 billion is dedicated to the National Health Service Corps through 2015. More than 2,800 new Loan Repayment awards and over 200 scholarships are expected in FY 2011.
These investments will help ensure we have the providers we need, serving where they are needed most. HRSA’s Affordable Care Act dollars build upon the $2.5 billion HRSA received last year under the Recovery Act: $2 billion to expand health centers (more than $1.9 million which has been awarded in grants to communities); $300 million for the NHSC; $200 million for workforce training.
Strengthening the health care workforce is a key element of HRSA’s strategic plan. We want to make sure that the health workforce is capable and diverse, and that it is trained to provide high quality, culturally and linguistically appropriate care.
Together, the Recovery Act and Affordable Care Act will support the training and development of more than 16,000 new primary care providers over the next five years.
Since August alone, the Department has awarded $558 million in workforce training and development dollars from the ACA and Recovery Acts combined.
In the latest awards, released Tuesday, we announced $253 million in training funds from the Affordable Care Act’s Public Health and Prevention Fund for primary care medical residents, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses, and personal and home care aides. More than $9 million of that amount went to Florida-based grantees, meaning nearly $28 million in workforce training dollars have been awarded to institutions in your state during the past two months.
In addition, part of the funds announced Tuesday – almost $6 million – go to 26 states to begin comprehensive health care workforce planning or implementation.
These ACA and Recovery Act investments counter years of underinvestment in health professions, and leave us increasing increasingly confident that we have a plan in place to make sure the right health care providers serve in the right places to meet the growing need for quality affordable care.
I want to turn for a moment to another of your Foundation’s priorities: oral health. Through HRSA’s health centers, we provide direct oral health services to almost 3.5 million people each year. Nearly all health centers provide dental exams and care, and people can find the nearest health center to them by going to the HRSA web site at www.hrsa.gov and clicking on “Get Health Care” on the top banner, then “Find a Health Center.”
And though the NHSC has nearly 700 dentists and hygienists working in needy communities, the fact remains that 49 million people in the U.S. now live in oral health shortage areas. We are nearly 7,000 practitioners short of the number necessary to extend services to those underserved communities, and the dentistry workforce is among the most rapidly aging in the health professions.
Encouragingly, the ACA addresses and will improve oral health care quality in a number of ways. It provides for:
These elements of the legislation give us reason for optimism about the future of oral health care and the prospect of broad-based improvements in the availability and quality of care.
In addition, I co-chair -- along with the Assistant Secretary for Health -- the HHS Oral Health Initiative 2010 Initiative, a Department-wide effort that emphasizes:
To those ends, HRSA has commissioned the Institute of Medicine to do two studies for us – the Oral Health Initiative Study and the Study on Oral Health Access to Services.
The Oral Health Initiative Study will have a broad focus across all HHS programs. It will examine the current system, including private practice, and will explore ways to improve our oral health literacy. Most importantly, it will examine new and innovative ways to engage the public with key messages about prevention.
Why focus on oral health literacy? Because all providers, not just those in the dental care field, should be up to speed on the importance of oral health care -- physicians, nurses, physical therapists, and physician assistants, and the wide range of health care professionals as well.
To learn more about what HRSA is doing in oral health, go to: http://www.hrsa.gov/publichealth/clinical/oralhealth.
Counseling on ways to stop smoking, lose weight, and work exercise into daily activities is covered, too.
Health plans will cover a set of standard vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. These range from routine childhood immunizations to periodic tetanus shots for adults.
And by eliminating the cost-sharing provision, the new law also helps make it affordable for seniors on Medicare and Americans enrolled in Medicaid to access critical preventive screenings and services. This is consistent with your Foundation’s “Healthy Aging” initiative.
For children, health plans will cover preventive care for children recommended under the Bright Futures guidelines, developed by HRSA with the American Academy of Pediatrics. This includes regular visits to a pediatrician, vision and hearing screening, developmental assessments, immunizations, and screening and counseling to address obesity and help children maintain a healthy weight.
Tackling obesity is a theme you’ll find throughout the Obama administration’s health activities. In fact, preventing health problems associated with being overweight or obese in our Nation is a Presidential priority.
The First Lady’s “Let’s Move Campaign” wants to end childhood obesity within one generation by promoting healthy eating and an active lifestyle. Mrs. Obama is encouraging healthier kids, healthier households and healthier schools by emphasizing:
Just a week ago, HRSA awarded $5 million from the Public Health and Prevention Fund to the National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality in Boston to create and manage a new Prevention Center for Healthy Weight to address obesity in children and families.
The Center will launch the Healthy Weight Collaborative to share evidence-based and promising community-based and clinical interventions in preventing and treating obesity. Collaborative teams will be recruited to help states and local communities develop practical approaches that link public health and primary care. The Center will oversee and provide technical assistance to the team which, at a minimum, will represent health departments, community-based organizations, HHS and HRSA grantees, and others.
We are already sometimes known as “Safety Net Agency,” but we might just as well be called “The Health Care Partnership Agency.” We certainly expect a spike in our cross-agency collaborations within and outside the federal government, and an increase in consultations with state and community health constituencies as we implement provisions of the Affordable Care Act.