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ETSU awarded one of seven Rural Health Research Centers by HRSA

ETSU will collaborate with the NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis

JOHNSON CITY  East Tennessee State University received one of seven Rural Health Research Center grants, awarded by the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, to create the Center for Substance Misuse in Rural America.
 
The $2.77 million award, which ETSU won in collaboration with the NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis, part of NORC at the University of Chicago, spans four years.
 
According to HRSA, the goal of the Rural Health Research Center program is “to conduct rural research to assist providers and policy-makers at the federal, state and local levels to better understand problems faced by rural communities. This research informs population health improvement efforts, including health care access and delivery.”
Each research center is required to select a key focus area important to rural health policy and conduct nationally relevant studies to inform evidence and practice that will improve access to care and rural health outcomes.
The ETSU Center for Substance Misuse in Rural America selected substance use disorder as its area of focus, built on the collaboration of the ETSU Addiction Science Center, ETSU Center for Rural Health Research, and NORC’s Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis. 
HRSA’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy allocates over $100 million per year to communities around the nation as part of its Rural Communities Opioid Response Program, providing a rich opportunity for the ETSU center to inform rural health policy and practice.
“This award brings together ETSU’s expertise in addiction science and rural health research, and further solidifies our strong and growing partnership with NORC at the University of Chicago,” said Dr. Randy Wykoff, dean of the ETSU College of Public Health. “This is another major step forward for ETSU and for the College of Public Health.”
In 2019, Governor Bill Lee established the ETSU Center for Rural Health Research, to identify new mechanisms to improve health in rural and nonurban communities.
“When I proposed to support the creation of the Center for Rural Health Research at ETSU, I did so because of the strong foundation of the partnership between ETSU and Ballad Health, and because as I said then, I believed this partnership would lead to more investment into Northeast Tennessee,” said Gov. Lee. “This announcement and national designation of ETSU as a Rural Health Research Center follows another exciting announcement of the creation of the Ballad Health Strong BRAIN Institute at ETSU. I congratulate the faculty who worked hard to secure this grant and designation and strongly encourage ETSU to continue expanding the center’s impact throughout Tennessee and the nation.”
Dr. Robert Pack, executive director of ETSU’s Addiction Science Center and associate dean in the ETSU College of Public Health, will serve as principal investigator and director of the center. Michael Meit, director of research and programs at the ETSU Center for Rural Health Research, and Alana Knudson, director of the NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis, will also serve as senior leaders for the center.
“A long-standing partnership between ETSU and the NORC Walsh Center led to this new award and we’re anxious to get started. Our goal for the center is to conduct research that will improve health policy for rural Americans who suffer from substance use disorder. This population is vulnerable in normal times, and even more so in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pack said.
The other recipients of HRSA’s Rural Health Research Center awards include: University of Kentucky, University of Maine System, Regents of the University of Minnesota, University of North Carolina, South Carolina Research Foundation and University of Washington.