The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has allocated nearly $11m through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to provide new medical residency programmes in rural communities.

The funding is intended to address the shortage of doctors in underserved rural areas by training and retaining physicians in those regions.

It will be used to support the development of family medicine residency programmes with enhanced obstetrical training to improve maternal health care in rural communities.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said: “Training residents in rural areas leads more medical school graduates to stay and practice in rural settings.

“There’s a shortage of doctors across the nation, especially in our most underserved communities, and these rural residency development grants will help address this shortage.”

The funding builds on previous investments to recruit physicians in rural areas, which the US Government has said is a ‘critical priority’.

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Almost 70% of the US areas designated as primary medical Health Professional Shortage Areas are in rural regions.

Physician shortages, poverty and geographic isolation are among the factors causing a lack of access to care and poorer health outcomes in these regions.

In addition to the latest funding, the HRSA has supported other programmes that aim to strengthen the rural health workforce, including the National Health Service Corps and Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education initiatives.

HRSA administrator Carole Johnson said: “Through HRSA’s decades of work supporting access to health care in rural communities, we know that rural residency programmes help ensure that qualified doctors train and stay in the rural communities that need them.

“This funding will help build the pipeline of doctors who have experience with the unique needs and challenges of working in rural areas, particularly rural women who face increased barriers to high-quality maternal health care before, during, and after pregnancy.”