The Center for Rural Health staff work with local health care providers and interested community organizations to determine the availability of primary care, dental and mental health providers in a county or service area (a service area is usually a portion of a county). If the area meets the federal criteria, staff submit an application to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requesting a designation as a shortage or underserved area. The Center for Rural Health maintains a database of health care providers practicing in rural and underserved areas.
Shortage area designations allow providers to participate in a variety of different state and federal programs. The designations include health professional shortage areas (HPSA), medically underserved areas (MUA), and medically underserved populations (MUP).