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Report, Webinar Focuses on Impact of COVID-19 and the Rural Health Workforce

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SPRINGFIELD, IL – A new report dissects the impact of COVID-19 on the rural health workforce and identifies methods the state can utilize current health workers more efficiently while committing to long-term rural health workforce recruitment strategies. 

“Pre-pandemic, rural regions suffered from significant healthcare provider shortages, which often required rural residents to travel long distances or wait longer for appointments,” said Dr. Sameer Vohra, Chair, SIU Medicine Department of Population Science and Policy. “Despite rural health workers’ heroic efforts during the pandemic, job-related stress and burnout caused a further reduction in short-staffed hospitals and healthcare facilities. We have developed recommendations that will not only maximize the capabilities of the current rural health workforce but will also make rural healthcare a more attractive choice for incoming providers or health workers.”

Southern Illinois University (SIU) Medicine Department of Population Science and Policy, SIU Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, The University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health and the SIU Medicine Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development have developed a set of recommendations to improve the Illinois rural workforce.

The Rural Health Summit group recommends substantive actions to increase and improve the rural health workforce:

  • Provide incentives and opportunities to maximize, recruit and retain a rural health workforce.
  • Build rural community health workforce collaborations between public health and healthcare to enhance service delivery.
  • Augment telehealth infrastructure and capacity in rural areas to improve access to medical and behavioral health specialists.


The Rural Health Summit will host a webinar at noon on October 14 to discuss how COVID-19 has impacted the rural health workforce. Register for that webinar HERE and see the schedule of upcoming webinars.

The policy recommendations are the result of discussions from rural health stakeholders, community leaders, legislators, physicians and experts from organizations throughout Illinois and build on the Rural Health Summit’s initial report, “Building a Healthier Rural Illinois: Understanding and Addressing the Challenges of COVID-19.” 

The Rural Health Summit is releasing monthly topic-specific policy briefs and hosting corresponding webinars through January 2022 on topics of an aging rural population, mental health, public health systems, nutrition and fitness, children’s growth and development, workforce development, opioids, health and housing and economic development. 

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