Rural and Community Matters Newslet, Winter 2018, No. 1

Section of Rural and Community Health Systems, 
Division of Public Health, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services

Rural and Community Matters

Quarterly - Winter 2018, No. 1

Mission: Improve the health of Alaskans by addressing health system issues

Vision: Vibrant health system in Alaska


  • Community health improvement
  • Identify needs to promote healthcare system solutions
  • Quality improvement

What We Do: The Office of Healthcare Access ccordinates programs that strengthen health care access with a focus on rural areas and underserved populations. We also conduct statewide health planning to help sustain organized and efficient health care delivery in Alaska.



Welcome to the first Rural and Community Matters quarterly newsletter! Our goal is to share information with health providers and communities.


Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs):

What they are and what they mean to your healthcare organization.

Or, how to talk about health care shortage areas without drowning in alphabet soup.


When you’re talking about designating health care shortage areas, it's easy to get mired in alphabet soup: HPSA, MUA/Ps, NHSC, SDMS, SHARP, FQHC, CMS . .oh, my! We’ll try to limit the alphabet to HPSAs, Health Professional Shortage Areas. The federal Health Resources and Services Administrations (HRSA) uses these areas as a designation of health care need.


The Alaska Primary Care Office, part of the Office of Healthcare Access, has the job of keeping HPSA scores up to date and accurate. You see, here in the Primary Care Office, we love HPSA scores; the bigger the better, because the higher the HPSA score, the greater the need. It’s not that we want areas of Alaska to have a high medical need. It’s just that with high HPSA scores, we can better help these areas get the health care resources they need. And that’s something we really like to do. 


HPSAs are designated by the HRSA as having shortages of primary care, dental care, or mental health providers. They may be at the geographic (a county or service area), population (e.g., low income or Medicaid eligible) or facility level (e.g., federally qualified health centers, Alaska Native or Native American populations, or state or federal prisons).


With high enough HPSA scores, areas of low health care access can qualify for federal benefits such as loan repayment for physicians or dentists to attract them to these areas. It also qualifies them for Alaska’s own SHARP loan repayment program.


We keep track of HPSAs by knowing which health care providers are working in which areas, and what services they provide. We do this by contacting facilities and organizations about their provider staff. You may be hearing from one of us soon. Remember we’re fighting the good fight for better health care in Alaska.


The website provides maps, data, reports, and dashboards to the public about HRSA’s health care programs. The data integrates with external sources, such as the U.S. Census Bureau, providing information about HRSA’s grants, loan and scholarship programs, health centers, and other public health programs and services.

The HPSA Find website can search HPSA data by state and county (or counties). HPSA Find provides the type of HPSA (geographic, population, or facility-based), score, HPSA type, and other details. The tool allows users to filter, sort, and export the results.


Upcoming Events and Updates

Ragin’ Contagion Exercise: April 10-12, 2019. Contact: Charles Pelton, 907-334-2242

State Office of Rural Health (SORH)

The purpose of this SORH newsletter column is to disseminate and develop information on rural health issues, policies, training, grant opportunities, and recruitment, (including RHIH and Rural Health Research Gateway) to rural health providers, facilities, and policy makers. 


Workforce Development

SHARP clinicians work in all regions of Alaska. SHARP’s intent is to help ensure that residents throughout the state, including recipients of medical assistance or Medicare, and the uninsured, experience improved access to healthcare services.  We help to address the worsening shortage of certain healthcare professionals in the state by increasing the number and improving the distribution of healthcare professionals who provide direct patient care. To date, SHARP has issued 254 clinician service contracts. SHARP issued nother 75(+) clinician-contracts during Fall 2018.


National Health Service Corps

The Office of Healthcare Access is the key point of contact for the NHSC, a federally funded Health Resources and Services Administration program assisting communities and health care professionals to provide quality health care. OHA staff work to recruit qualified sites and providers to participate in the NHSC program and help identify health professional shortage areas (HPSAs) used to direct NHSC placements. OHA staff work to assure that sites applying for participation meet the qualifications of the NHSC and providers are aware of this resource. NHSC scholars are new physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, and other health professionals who received scholarships through the program in exchange for a placement in an underserved community. Separately, the NHSC loan repayment program forgives student loans in exchange for work in an underserved location.


3RNet logo

3RNet Supports Workforce Development

3RNet (Rural Retention and Recruitment Network) is a free web-based jobs board to bring health care employers and candidates together. Registration is easy and employers can start posting job opportunities right away. Medical professionals looking for positions also register on 3RNet to access the positions being advertised. This is another service brought to you by the Office of Healthcare Access. With 3RNet employers can post descriptions of available opportunities, details about the facility, community profiles, photographs and other community medical resources. 3RNet offers other services to support your recruitments, including strategies to market your positions and support for recruitment and retention. 3RNet also offers an annual academy focusing on retention strategies. The 2018 3RNet Academy started on Oct.2 and offers sessions through December. The Academy is available to you at no cost.

Highlights from Health Newsletters

Trauma Training Initiative Teaches Rural Laypeople how to “Stop the Bleed”

Alaska’s Stop the Bleed Program, Bleeding Control for the Injured (B-CON) is provided by the RCHS Trauma Training Program. This 2 ½ hour course teaches participants the basic life-saving medical interventions, including bleeding control with a tourniquet, bleeding control with gauze packs and opening an airway to allow a casualty to breathe. It consists of a short PowerPoint followed by hands on practice with tourniquets as well as wound packing.

Alaska DHSS Section of Rural & Community Health Systems has taught this program to many different agencies including: Alaska State Troopers, Department of Corrections, Kenai, Mat-Su and Anchorage School Districts, Judicial Services, private citizens, and various community and municipal groups. The course is free of charge and all training materials are provided. Contact: Todd LeCours at 907-269-3042 or