Tennessee Rural Health Care Task Force Releases Recommendations

Key priority in the Lee administration’s mission to support rural Tennessee
Friday, June 30, 2023 | 01:04pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, the Tennessee Rural Health Care Task Force, which was formed by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee to further the administration’s mission to serve rural communities across the state, released recommendations to improve health access and outcomes for rural Tennesseans.

The Task Force’s recommendations follow a historic reduction in Tennessee’s economically-distressed counties, announced earlier this week.

“Since 2019, we’ve made record strides in expanding opportunity for Tennesseans, particularly across our rural communities,” said Gov. Lee. “As we continue to invest in and strengthen rural Tennessee, I look forward to reviewing the Task Force’s recommendations to identify new opportunities for our administration to improve the health of individuals and families throughout the state.”

"We applaud the Task Force's work, and its commitment and collaboration to address the unique health care challenges rural areas face," said Tennessee Health Commissioner Ralph Alvarado, MD, FACP. "Partnerships matter in public health, especially as we make progress to close gaps, provide resources, and improve health care for all Tennesseans."

“The substantial work of Task Force members and countless individuals over the last year have led to a comprehensive road map to transform the rural health care landscape in Tennessee,” said Dr. Morgan McDonald, National director of Population Health, Milbank Memorial Fund, and Task Force co-chair. “The report’s evidence-based recommendations are designed to improve access to health care, provide communities resources to address key drivers of health outcomes, and train and sustain health care professionals to serve rural Tennesseans for years to come.”

“Lifepoint Health has hospitals around the country, including five in Tennessee, and these facilities are, in many cases, the only hospitals in their communities,” said David Dill, chairman and chief executive officer of Lifepoint Health, and Task Force co-chair. “Our team lives firsthand the challenges and opportunities that face rural families and communities across our state every day. I believe the recommendations of the Task Force will help advance equitable and quality healthcare and improve the health and welfare of people throughout Tennessee’s rural communities.” 

The Rural Health Care Task Force comprised 34 public and private stakeholders representing the Lee administration, the Tennessee General Assembly and rural health care leaders and community members across the state. In addition to the Tennessee Department of Health, the Task Force included officials from the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development, Tennessee Department of Human Services, Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services, and TennCare.

The Task Force met from May 2022 to June 2023 to develop evidence-based recommendations to improve rural communities’ access to preventive and comprehensive health care services, promote equitable, efficient, and effective health care delivery, and improve health outcomes for rural Tennesseans.

The Task Force’s final report includes policy opportunities, budget recommendations, legislative agenda items, and innovative programs across three priority areas – access to care, workforce development, and social drivers of health. 

Read a summary of the report here and the full report here.

More information is also available from TDH’s Office of Rural Health.