The purpose of this brief is to: (1) examine the opportunities and challenges in implementing education and training programs in rural communities, and (2) describe how the Tribal HPOG 2.0 grantees have leveraged their communities’ strengths to maximize these opportunities and overcome challenges.

This practice brief is one in a series developed by the Tribal Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) 2.0 evaluation team. This practice brief examines the challenges faced by the Tribal HPOG 2.0 programs that operate in remote, sparsely populated rural communities. It describes the strengths-based approaches they have developed or leveraged in response.

Rural communities frequently leverage strengths and assets, such as cross-sector cooperation, social cohesion, and community resilience, to facilitate program development and implementation. These assets often result in the creation of partnerships that can be leveraged to address challenges and barriers to program implementation in rural areas, such as high levels of poverty, geographic isolation, and a need to travel long distances for services. Additionally, rural populations often experience limited job opportunities and sporadic access to local employment and social service offices due to reduced state and local resources. While economic development by tribal nations has increased over the past two decades through tribally-owned businesses and institutional infrastructure, many tribal communities still experience significant challenges, with some lacking employment opportunities that offer a living wage. Given these circumstances, people often leave their communities in search of jobs in urban areas to support themselves and their families.

This brief examines how the program has responded to these rural community challenges.

Major Findings & Recommendations

Implementing employment and training programs like HPOG in a rural area presents unique challenges and barriers, including geographic isolation, the need to travel long distances, and limited employment and education opportunities. Despite these challenges, the Tribal HPOG 2.0 grantees have:

  1. Leveraged partnerships to expand healthcare training opportunities for Tribal HPOG 2.0 participants, including partnerships with higher education institutions and adult education centers. The grantees have also made use of distance education.
  2. Addressed geographic isolation and increased access to training and services by providing financial assistance (such as gas cards) to address transportation barriers, hosting training programs at locations convenient for participants, and conducting certification exams at training sites or by providing financial support to travel to test sites.
  3. Established a variety of communication methods for case management, co-located program staff at partner sites, and identified HPOG liaisons at partner institutions to assist with recruitment.