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Partnership and Investment on Health IT Week

Nurse Jennifer Witting stands beside newly installed telemedicine equipment at the Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital in Laurium, MI in June 2012. The Aspirus Health Foundation, Inc. received two Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grants through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development (RD) DLT Program, that enabled Aspirus to grow their Telehealth infrastructure into communities in north-central Wisconsin and the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. USDA photo.

Nurse Jennifer Witting stands beside newly installed telemedicine equipment at the Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital in Laurium, MI in June 2012. The Aspirus Health Foundation, Inc. received two Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grants through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development (RD) DLT Program, that enabled Aspirus to grow their Telehealth infrastructure into communities in north-central Wisconsin and the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. USDA photo.

This week at USDA we are celebrating National Health IT week by highlighting USDA’s ongoing efforts to expand modern health care access to rural America. Yesterday, we announced two new steps to improve health care for rural Americans – both through new investments in health infrastructure and ongoing interagency partnerships designed to better focus Federal efforts on rural health care.

USDA is expanding a partnership with HHS and the Department of Veterans Affairs, as part of our work together on the White House Rural Council, to leverage funds and other efforts that will support advanced health care technology in rural hospitals. This partnership is an extension of a successful pilot launched in five states – Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi and Texas – to identify rural critical access hospitals in persistent poverty areas in need of advanced health care technology. For example, during the pilot phase of this partnership, the USDA Rural Development Iowa State Office, the Iowa Regional Health IT Extension Center (REC) and the Iowa State Office of Rural Health convened the first Iowa Rural Health IT Forum to expand care for Critical Access Hospitals. Read more »

Are Frogs on the Edge of Survival?

The very existence of frogs worldwide is being threatened by a killer fungus. Photo Credit: National Science Foundation

The very existence of frogs worldwide is being threatened by a killer fungus. Photo Credit: National Science Foundation

A lethal fungus is killing frogs and other water-dwelling amphibians all over the world, but a team of international scientists led by U.S. Forest Service scientist Deanna Olson is working to understand why.

Olson, who works at the agency’s Pacific Northwest Research Station, and her colleagues have the daunting task of tracking the disease, known as the amphibian chytrid fungus. Unlike the clearly visible white-nose syndrome killing bats in the U.S., the frog fungus cannot be seen except with a microscope. That makes scientists’ jobs that much more difficult.

Since the discovery of the malady is so recent, scientists still don’t understand a great deal about the fungus except that it affects the skin and ultimately leads to cardiac arrest in amphibians. Read more »

Leading by Example: Conservation in Arizona

Newly installed pivot irrigation lines run behind Gerry Gonzalez, NRCS district conservationist in Douglas (left) and farmer Alfredo Zamora.

Newly installed pivot irrigation lines run behind Gerry Gonzalez, NRCS district conservationist in Douglas (left) and farmer Alfredo Zamora.

Travel 30 miles south of Alfredo and Sabrina Zamora’s farm in Cochise County, Ariz., and the imposing border fence between the U.S. and Mexico rises up across the horizon. This border county is rural, arid, open land where the Zamoras have spent their lives farming.

The couple is well known in the area for their cotton, pecans and alfalfa crops and they are no strangers at the local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Douglas. They’ve worked with NRCS over the years to plan out and implement conservation on their farm, including more efficient water and irrigation practices, the use of crop residue to improve soil health and the reduction of soil erosion. Read more »