The Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis, with partner the University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center, is conducting the Rural Health Outreach Tracking and Evaluation Project. This four-year project, for the Health Resources and Services Administration Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (ORHP), is designed to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of federal grant programs under the Outreach Authority of Section 330A of the Public Health Service Act. NORC and the University of Minnesota are also working with the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) and the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) to complete the evaluation.
Created in 1991 under the authority of section 301 of the Public Health Service (PHS) Act, the 330A Outreach Authority programs have provided grants supporting over 900 consortia projects to expand access, coordinate resources, and improve the quality of health care services for rural communities. These grants provide seed money with the intent that the programs developed will continue after federal funding ends.
The goal of the Rural Health Outreach Tracking and Evaluation project is to conduct evaluation activities both within and across the six 330A Outreach Authority programs. Because the 330A programs are so diverse, it is not possible to evaluate all programs with a single approach; therefore, each project year, five new evaluation projects are proposed, from which the Office of Rural Health Policy (ORHP) selects three to four. Sample evaluation projects include the identification of common evaluation metrics across grant programs, evaluation of the network development planning grant program, and the use of evidence-based practices among grantees. Each project results in recommendations for improving the program and ensuring that rural health resources are most effectively used at the community level. Project documentation includes white papers, evalution briefs, online toolkits, and reports focused on lessons learned.
Evaluation activities include the following projects: