USDA Rural Development State Director Colleen Landkamer recently celebrated National Rural Health Day by announcing more than $260,000 in grants through USDA Rural Development’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program to improve access to health care for rural Americans across the Midwest.
"Delivering these programs to rural communities that often do not have access to quality, affordable medical and educational services has tremendous economic and social benefits," Landkamer said. "They also mean that people who live and work in rural areas will not have to travel long distances for specialized health care services. These investments mean that students in rural high schools will have educational opportunities often not available outside urban areas."
Through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program, USDA has helped hundreds of rural communities deliver care in remote areas since it began two decades ago. For example, $213,564 was awarded to Essentia Health to expand Essentia’s existing telemedicine network to 21 clinics and two hospitals. This expansion project is expected to benefit more 300,000 people across Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. In addition, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Public Schools will receive a $54,739 grant to expand their distance learning network by adding new curricula and degree and certificate programs.
Rural residents are more likely to report a fair to poor health status and have higher rates of health complications, morbidity and mortality due to challenges associated with low levels of employment and education, geographic barriers and isolation, lack of quality nutrition and health education, and lack of access to health care.
Landkamer’s announcement follows USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s nationwide announcement of $20.4 million in grants that will provide rural Americans access to medical services, improve educational opportunities, and support Native American communities.
In addition to distance learning and telemedicine, USDA Rural Development provides programs for housing, rural small businesses and agricultural entrepreneurs, community facilities and equipment, and broadband. Since 2009, USDA Rural Development has invested over $5.2 billion in rural communities throughout Minnesota.