I am honored to have been named a member of the negotiated rulemaking committee that will review and update how medically underserved areas (MUA) and health professional shortage areas (HPSA) are identified and designated. Such designations make areas eligible for receipt of community health center funds, placement of a national health service corps provider, and can make physicians eligible for a Medicare bonus payment. The designations are also used for a variety of other purposes. Here is the federal register notice of intent to form such a committee, from May, 2010. Section 5602 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (the health reform law) provided for the HRSA to review and develop a methodology for identifying such areas, and this committee is the beginning of that process.
My dissertation research, directed by Tom Ricketts at the UNC School of Public Health, and carried out at the Sheps Center for Health Services Research in the Rural Health Research Program, focused on identifying underserved areas and I completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre at the University of Manchester (U.K). where I spent a year comparing how the US and the UK conceive of, identify, and respond to 'underserved' areas.
Updated: a little historical context.