Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced more than $1.5 million in grants to support the Rural Health and Safety Education Program, which helps rural families cope with aging, eldercare and caregiving, and rural healthcare. Vilsack also today noted the healthcare disparity that exists for those who live in rural America.

"Almost one in four Americans living in towns with less than 2,500 people have no health insurance coverage, and it's this disparity that demonstrates the need for health reform in our country," Vilsack said. "President Obama and I are committed to helping revitalize rural America and building strong, robust communities and reforming our healthcare system will help further that goal."

In rural America and across the country, the high costs or lack of insurance deters many people from seeking needed health care, and as a consequence, many illnesses go undiagnosed and long term costs increase. Recent studies show that rural Americans pay 39 percent of their total health care costs, out of pocket—the highest percentage for all Americans. Meanwhile, rural Americans are more likely than their urban counterparts to postpone or forego medical care because of the cost—nine percent say they delayed care and seven percent skipped treatment. At the same time, rural residents are more likely to report fair to poor health status than urban residents, have a higher mortality rate and are more likely to have a chronic condition such as arthritis, diabetes and heart disease.

USDA's Rural Health and Safety Education Program focuses on aging in rural areas, eldercare or caregiving and its impact on rural and farm families, health promotion and educational activities for older individuals and their families, and the training of volunteers and allied health professionals committed to rural health and care of aging populations.

Grant recipients will develop effective programs and services that will provide timely and adequate information to a diverse aging population; increase the responsibility of the elderly and their families to live healthier lives and plan for successful aging; increase access to health services and educational activities in rural communities; and, where appropriate, work with Cooperative Extension educators in rural communities to successfully enhance the quality of life of older adults.

The Fiscal Year 2009 grants were awarded to:

•University of Guam, Mangilao, Guam, $114,229

•University of Hawaii, Hilo, Hawaii, $329,985

•University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo., $320,538

•Candeska Cikana Community College, Fort Totten, N.D., $305,842

•Clemson University, Clemson, S.C., $273,081

•Texas AgriLife Extension Service, College Station, Texas, $231,648

•University of Vermont, Burlington, Vt., $108,107

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and Extension programs, CSREES focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. For more information, visit

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