Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

The Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) has coordinated activities related to rural health care within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the past 20 years. Part of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), FORHP has department-wide responsibility for analyzing the possible effects of policy on the 57 million residents of rural communities and provides grant funding at the state and local levels to improve access, quality and financing for rural health care.

Support at Every Level

FORHP administers grant programs designed to build health care capacity at both the local and state levels. For states, these grants provide funds to improve quality and stability for rural hospitals, and they support State Offices of Rural Health (SORH) in their efforts to enhance and coordinate rural health initiatives statewide. At the local level, FORHP programs encourage an evidence-based approach to population health that can be replicated from one community to the next, and the development of collaborative networks among rural health care providers to achieve project goals.  The grants support a variety of projects each year, including quality improvement initiatives for small health care providers, coordination of resources and expertise across geographic regions, and support for the purchase, placement and training for emergency devices that reverse the effects of opioid overdoses.  FORHP programs also provide resources promoting the use of telehealth technologies for health care delivery, education and health information services.

Rural Health Policy Analysis and Research

FORHP analyzes the effects of current policies and proposed statutory, regulatory, administrative, and budgetary changes on rural communities. Because rural residents tend to be older and in poorer health status than their urban counterparts, changes to the Medicare program are important to understand.  With this in mind, review and analysis of prospective changes to Medicare comprise much of the FORHP’s policy work. Significant time and attention also are also devoted to other policy areas, including Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), workforce, quality, and health information technology (HIT).

Finally, to enhance its advisory capacity, FORHP supports a robust research program which provides pertinent and timely information about the status of rural health and effects of policy that can help FORHP, as well as the public, understand the unique challenges in rural areas, how they impact these communities and the entire health care system.  

Last Reviewed: March 2016



Did You Know?

  • About one third of rural dwellers lose all of their teeth by age 65 for lack of dental services and fluoridation.
  • Some 2,000 rural communities have only one pharmacist, who often is the only local health care provider.
  • Rural residents experience greater rates of chronic disease than any other segment of the U.S. population.
  • Racial and ethnic minorities comprise 15 percent of the total rural population and 30 percent of the rural poor population.