Today is National Rural Health Day, and I’m giving a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to talk about what USDA Rural Development has done to strengthen access to health care in our rural communities, as well as carry a message from President Obama on the importance of this day.
Critical care infrastructure is a challenge in any community, and in our rural areas it is often compounded by distances that are unthinkable to those who live in our urban centers. Take Alaska, for example: Yesterday we announced investments to bring an ambulance and emergency medical equipment to St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea. The nearest hospital facility is almost 800 miles away in Anchorage. That’s like someone in Illinois having to come to Washington, D.C. for medical care.
One of the ways we bridge these distances is through broadband telecommunications. Thanks to investment by USDA Rural Development, a high-speed fiber optic connection can now bring a pediatric cardiologist at Johns Hopkins to a patient on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. That’s just one of the nearly two hundred broadband infrastructure investments we’ve made over the last five years.
Thanks to the support we receive from Congress, USDA Rural Development has been able to invest millions of dollars in our rural communities – and it’s a wise investment, indeed. Access to quality health care promotes economic health and growth and a strong rural economic engine is one of the pillars of our national economy. It pays off in both the short and the long term.
There’s no way we can do it all by ourselves. Agencies across the federal government work together through the White House Rural Council and partner with state governments and the private sector. Our friends over at the Department of Health and Human Services have posted a detailed explanation of this partnership and its investment across our nation.
I’m proud of the work we do to make our rural communities stronger, safer, and a better place to live.