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Southwest Rural Health Research Center

The Southwest Rural Health Research Center (SRHRC) is nationally recognized and funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration's Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. The center was established to address the needs of rural and underserved populations across Texas and the nation by bringing together a unique combination of faculty expertise in health policy, chronic disease, health economics, aging, long-term care, health law, and epidemiology and biostatistics.

Rural Healthy People 2030


Some of the distinctive cultural, social, economic, and geographic characteristics that define rural America place rural populations at greater risk for a myriad of diseases and health (challenges instead of disorders) disorders. It is this recognition of the unique health challenges faced by rural America that served as the impetus for our once-a-decade Rural Healthy People publications.

These publications discuss the top twenty rural health priorities for the current decade, as chosen by the people who live and work in rural areas. You’ll discover the latest research and best practices for each priority written by leading experts in the field. You’ll also find examples of community-based programs that could serve as models in reaching rural and minority populations. Don’t miss the Rural Healthy People 2030 edition, hot off the press in 2023. You can also access the previous editions from 2020 and 2010.

Rural Healthy People publications are one-of-a-kind national resources equipping health policy planners at the federal and state levels with vital information, and empowering rural leaders and health care providers with critical tools for responding effectively to the needs of the communities they serve.


Current Center Projects

older, sicker, poorer

"Older, Sicker, Poorer": A Scoping Review of the Literature That Contributes to This Narrative on Rural Americans

Researchers have long noted the disproportionate disease and mortality burden borne by residents of rural areas of the U.S., as well as disproportionate economic opportunities to develop wealth. Moreover, researchers have highlighted rural youth migration citing factors that push residents away from the communities in which they were raised. The project team will identify and summarize the literature on the rural youth exodus, the disproportionate burden of disease, and variations in opportunities for wealth for rural Americans. Our findings will provide the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy with a comprehensive scoping review they can utilize for policy development and advocacy.

Alva Ferdinand, DrPH, JD

community health workers

Assessing the Clinical and Financial Impact of Community Health Workers in Rural America

The public health field has increasingly used the social determinants of health framework to understand health access and outcomes. The use of community health workers (CHW) has emerged as a potential model for helping to ensure that patient needs are met. Research assessing the impact that CHWs are having has often focused on a single site, hospital system, or state. By synthesizing these studies into a comprehensive scoping review, this project will allow for policymakers to better understand the extent to which CHWs improve health status and improve the bottom line for health systems in rural communities across the United States.

Alva Ferdinand, DrPH, JD

NP and PA

Identifying and Exploring the Settings That Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants Are Practicing in as Well as Trends in Specialization in These Groups

nurse and kidThere is evidence that nurse practitioners (NP) and physician assistants (PA) are branching into various specialties such as psychiatric, oncology, and pediatrics, but a contemporary understanding of how these specialties are represented in rural settings is missing, especially in light of evolving state scope of practice laws in the U.S. Researchers will use National Provider Identifier registry data to assess trends in specialty and settings and Medicare provider utilization and payment data to explore whether there have been significant changes in the number of clinician types billing for procedures. These findings will inform the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy on areas where the use of NPs and PAs can be enhanced.

Alva Ferdinand, DrPH, JD

Other SRHRC Programs


Texas Cancer Screening, Training, Education, and Prevention (C-STEP)

The Texas Cancer Screening, Training, Education and Prevention Program, or  Texas C-STEP, is conducted through the  Texas A&M Health Family Care. Texas C-STEP provides critical safety-net services, such as cancer screenings and certain advanced diagnostics, to uninsured, underserved, and low-income Texans through an established family medicine residency training program.

Texas C-STEP is funded by grants from the  Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas. The grants provide much needed access to women’s health services and colonoscopy, while also enhancing screening capacity and physician training. The program serves as a state and nationwide model for translating cancer screening services, such as colonoscopies, into the family practice setting.

Funding for this prevention and screening project has dramatically increased the availability of various cancer screenings for safety-net patients, while increasing the number of family medicine physicians trained to conduct colonoscopy screenings. Community health workers provide culturally-appropriate outreach, education and navigation services to the patients who receive cancer screenings at the Texas A&M Health Family Care clinic.