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News Release
Release No. STELPRD4013634
ContactUSDA Office of Communications202-720-4623
Printable Version  Printable Version

Washington, DC, Dec 08, 2011 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that recipients in 34 states and one territory will receive funding to improve access to health care and educational services in rural areas. Funding is provided through the USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Program.

“This program delivers educational and medical opportunities that are urgently needed in remote, rural areas,” Vilsack said. “President Obama has said that no matter where you live in America, you should have access to quality educational opportunities. Rural Americans deserve the same opportunities for education and medical care as metropolitan-area residents, and these funds will make that happen.”

The grants, administered by USDA Rural Development through its Rural Utilities Service, will help fund 100 distance learning and telemedicine projects. In Nebraska, Alegent Health of Omaha, Nebraska will receive $500,000 to be used by three hub hospitals, two in Omaha and one in Papillion, Nebraska, that will serve as hubs to support specialty services in cardiology, endocrinology and nephrology to 13 primary care centers at rural hospitals in Nebraska and southwestern Iowa. Each video end point location will have a medical cart with video conferencing equipment, a telephonic stethoscope, ENT otoscope, and exam camera so that rural medical staff can bring specialists into the rural exam room via the telemedicine equipment. The main hub sites will receive a video communications server to manage the video network and a content server, capable of archiving and streaming teaching events and courses for medical education. Having a robust venue for continuing medical education from large urban hospitals to rural clinics will help to reduce medical professional isolation at those locations. With this project Alegent hopes to eliminate 60 percent of patient travel to hospitals and specialty clinics, and decrease by 55 percent the number of patients with heart disease, diabetes or kidney disease by providing regular medical attention to those who otherwise would have had worsening symptoms.

Educational Service Unit #9 of Hastings, Nebraska will use $57,341 to service a distance learning consortium of ten K-12 schools in South Central Nebraska. Nine schools are in exceptionally rural areas. The video conferencing equipment that will be installed at the hub and the end-user sites will provide a pathway for students to step into a rich academic experience, with virtual field trips and access to high demand classes that would otherwise be unavailable, such as advanced math, agriculture, foreign language, music theory, humanities, career development and many others. Teachers will be furthering their qualifications and taking practical classes such as how to use educational technology.

For a list of awardees that will receive funding under Rural Development’s DLT Program, please click here

Awards are contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of the agreement with USDA.

Since taking office, President Obama’s Administration has taken historic steps to improve the lives of rural Americans, put people back to work and build thriving economies in rural communities. From proposing the American Jobs Act to establishing the first-ever White House Rural Council – chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack – the President wants the federal government to be the best possible partner for rural businesses, entrepreneurs and people who want to live, work and raise their families in rural communities.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has a portfolio of more than $160 billion in loans and loan guarantees. Visit for additional information about the agency's programs or to locate the USDA Rural Development office nearest you.

Last Modified:09/28/2012 
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