Health services have expanded in recent times because of scientific and technological developments, placing further pressure on budgets. Although health care provision remains a priority worldwide, there have been severe nursing staff shortages and growing disenchantment among the workforce, due to pay, job classification and career problems.
Health needs and health services in rural America are key issues directly related to education as well as community well-being. This report examines rural America's access to basic health care services and discusses options for congressional consideration. The focus is on trends in availability of primary and acute rural health care and on factors affecting those trends. The report describes the characteristics of rural populations and health programs, the availability of rural health services and personnel, and delivery of rural maternal and infant health and mental health care services. On each subject, options for congressional action are examined. The federal government currently finances several different types of rural health care programs, and has a strong interest in health care trends. Major declines in inpatient utilization, compounded by increasing amounts of uncompensated care, have undermined the financial health of many rural hospitals, which also are faced with the outmigration of rural residents to urban areas for care. Policy reform options are presented in regard to: (1) improvement of rural health facilities; (2) availability and training of health professionals in rural areas; and (3) enhancing maternal and infant care programs and mental health care programs in rural areas. This document contains numerous charts, graphics, data tables, and appendices that present background information about the study. It also includes a 745-item bibliography and a subject index.