Rural Assistance Center: Your Online Tool Box about Rural Communities

The Rural Assistance Center (RAC) is a comprehensive information portal created by the Department of Health and Human Services which provides access to a full range of available programs, funding, and research about rural communities. The site is available at

RAC users are a diverse group of community-based organizations, researchers, local government officials, state government offices, and national organizations dedicated to improving the access quality and financial viability of rural and human service delivery systems. RAC offers a variety of services to help inform decisions affecting rural health and human services. All services are provided free of charge. This article covers the details about some of these services.

The topics included are as follows:


A wealth of information about rural funding is available through

Funding Search by Topic or State

Rural funding information can be found by browsing under Funding by Topic, by selecting the State link under By State or by entering a specific search about a topic of interest when Funding Search link is selected.

Each link by topic or state provides access to organizations, foundations and agencies with available funding, a brief description about the type of funding or grant, geographic coverage of the award and application deadlines. Specific funding opportunities can also be found by doing a quick-search or advanced-search through the Funding Search ink. You can also sign up for an RSS feed for rural funding opportunities.

Rural Area Maps

Maps on selected rural topic areas are available through Each map is available in a printable format and can also be customized to show just your state or region, display county borders, show additional data, and more.

A quality, customized map is a valuable asset that can strengthen your grant application. If you are planning to present a proposal, report on health information outreach projects, or health care services issues, consider adding a map to your portfolio.

Health Professional Shortage Areas

A major area map is the Health Professional Shortage Areas and Medically Underserved Areas and Populations (HPSA). Health Professional Shortage Areas and Medically Underserved Areas/Populations map displays several health care topics including nationwide demonstration of HPSA based on Designated Populations, Clinician Priority Scores and Designated Type of health professional. The Designated Type maps cover the following resources:

Information Guides

Information guides focus on rural aspects of an issue or topic. Guides include relevant information pulled from the news, funding, and events as well as links to useful publications and web sites.

Some guides include in-depth information, such as frequently asked questions and contacts for more assistance. Guides can be browsed by alphabetical order or by browsing all topics.

Rural Health Disparities

Rural Health Disparities is one of the most frequently viewed guides. This guide consists of general information about existing disparities nationwide as well as specific information about tools and documents that can be used for data collection in this area.

Two major tools useful for defining rural disparity areas are:

  • 2007 State Snapshots sponsored by Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), this website provides State-specific health care quality information, including strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement. The goal is to help State officials and their public-and private-sector partners better understand health care quality and disparities in their State.
    • The National Healthcare Quality Report (NHQR) provides health care quality report for each state, based on the National Healthcare Quality Report and National Healthcare Disparities Report.
    • The State Selection Map allows you to choose your State to explore the quality of your State’s health care against national rates or best performing States.
  • Key Health and Health Care Indicators by Race/Ethnicity and State Sponsored by Kaiser Family Foundation, this website shows variation across states and racial and ethnic groups for key health and health care indicators. This site includes data on infant mortality, diabetes-related mortality and AIDS cases among African Americans and Hispanics in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and the percentages of each group that is uninsured, enrolled in Medicaid, or living in poverty.

State Resources

State Resources provides key resources specific for each state. Resources include general information about the rural status of individual states as well as specific tools that can be used to look for data, statistics, and other rural information related to each state.

Resources for All States

Resources for All States provides state-specific information and statistics focused on specific topics. These resources may be used for grant writing, research, and other activities to support rural health and human services.

Resources include valuable tools and documents that can be used to build a convincing case for funders and external agents as you prepare your proposal.


A helpful tool under Resources for All States is America’s Health Rankings: Our Nation At a Glance. Sponsored by the United health Foundation, this web site provides a 2008 health ranking report for each state. The ranking is comprised of 22 individual measures; 16 measure health determinants such as personal behaviors, and 6 measure health outcomes. This report allows you to view the latest statistics about your own state’s rural health and compare it to other states.

Whether you are involved with rural communities as part of your daily practice or thinking about doing future projects with this population group, the Rural Assistance Center (RAC) can be used as a fundamental online resource with unique features that helps you investigate countless topics related to these communities. It also consists of powerful tools beneficial for data collection, grant writing, and research.

<originally posted to Latitudes, the newsletter of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Pacific Southwest Region by Sue Yasharpour>

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