USDA grants aim to expand health care to rural areas

Agriculture Department grants awarded for telemedicine, distance learning projects

Telemedicine and distance-learning programs will receive a boost from $34.9 million in grants awarded by the Agriculture Department for 111 projects in 35 states, USDA announced today.

The projects aim to increase educational opportunities and expand access to health care services in rural areas, according to department officials. The funding will be provided through USDA Rural Development's Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program.

“The Obama Administration is working to ensure that rural citizens have access to a full range of educational opportunities and access to quality medical care," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "The funding we are announcing today will deliver these opportunities by expanding telecommunications, educational resources and computer networks throughout rural communities."

One project in Sioux Falls, S.D. received a $396,693 grant to provide video-conferencing and telemedicine service to connect 16 rural hospitals and clinics with regional medical facilities in Sioux Falls, Yankton and Aberdeen, for example.

The Association of Computer Technology Educators of Wells, Maine, will receive a $498,222 grant to purchase video conferencing equipment to link 22 schools in an eight-county area with four designated hub sites, including a library and a university, according to the USDA.

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Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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