NRHA and AAFP Host Rural Health Disparities Summit

In the face of worsening rural health disparities, the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) are coming together to hold the 2nd Annual Rural Health Disparities Summit in conjunction with NRHA’s 30th Annual Rural Health Policy Institute. Hosted on the final day of NRHA’s Rural Health Policy Institute, the nation’s largest rural advocacy event, the Rural Health Disparities Summit focuses on the growing divide between urban and rural communities, including health care workforce shortages negatively impacting both patients and providers.
While all of rural America faces unique challenges in accessing affordable, quality care, women, minorities, and veterans are forced to deal with even more. This final day of our conference will focus on border health, obstetrics care, dental health, and minority populations in rural America. So many rural doctors are family physicians practicing across the entire scope of health care, often because they are the only provider in the community. This creates an environment with unique challenges and opportunities, and NRHA and AAFP are excited to come together to discuss these issues.
Maggie Elewhwany, NRHA’s Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs, explains, “One of the most enduring characteristics of the rural health landscapes is the uneven distribution and relative shortage of health care professionals. With far fewer physicians per capita the maldistribution of health care providers between rural and urban areas results in unequal access to care and negatively impacts rural health.”
“Now, more than ever, the voice of rural America is speaking,” said Alan Morgan, CEO of NRHA. “Workforce shortages negatively affect the life of the 60 million Americans living in rural communities. Rural America is facing a national health crisis, and its time that Washington listens.”
“These aren’t just issues that affect my patients,” said AAFP president Dr. John Cullen. Cullen, a family physician practicing in Valdez, Alaska, said he knows firsthand how rural health issues impact a population. The patients he sees struggle daily drive his passion for improving care.
“These are issues that affect our neighbors, our friends, every person in a rural community,” Cullen said. “And the success of a rural community hinges on its ability to provide care for the members who need it most.
“This summit will spur dialogue that will guide our future policy recommendations to lawmakers. Having key stakeholders at the table now is vital to improving future rural health care in America.”
AAFP will host a panel during the Rural Health Disparities Summit focused specifically on the challenges of recruiting and retaining a health care workforce. The panel will feature AAFP member Dr. Marie-Elizabeth Ramas, a family physician practicing in a New Hampshire town with a population fewer than 8,000. Ramas is a past member of the AAFP Board of Directors and has experience in Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics. A two-time Minority Physician Representative for the AAFP National Conference of Constituency Leaders, she joins Cullen on behalf of the AAFP as champions for rural health care for this event.
About the National Rural Health Association
The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) is a national nonprofit membership organization with more than 21,000 members. The association’s mission is to provide leadership on rural health issues through advocacy, communications, education, and research. NRHA membership consists of a diverse collection of individuals and organizations, all of whom share this common bond. To learn more about NRHA and rural health, visit or follow us on Twitter.
The 30th Annual Rural Health Policy Institute will be held in Washington, D.C. at the Omni Shoreham Hotel on February 5-7. The 2nd Annual Rural Health Disparities Summit will be held on February 7. Please reach out to NRHA’s Advocacy Communications Manager, Jessica Seigel, at 202-639-0550 or [email protected], to discuss attendance or other questions.
About American Academy of Family Physicians

Founded in 1947, the American Academy of Family Physicians represents 131,400 physicians and medical students nationwide, and it is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five of the total medical office visits in the United States per year – more than any other specialty. Family physicians provide comprehensive, evidence-based, and cost-effective care dedicated to improving the health of patients, families and communities. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing and personal patient-physician relationship where the family physician serves as the hub of each patient’s integrated care team. More Americans depend on family physicians than on any other medical specialty.

To learn more about the AAFP and family medicine, visit Follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website,