PLOS Special Collection launch: Populations HRSA serves

On September 2 2020, the open-access journals PLOS ONE & PLOS Medicine launched a Special Collection of manuscripts centered around the healthcare provided by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the primary U.S. federal agency for improving healthcare in underserved or vulnerable populations.

HRSA, which operates under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), was created in 1982, and helps those in need of high-quality primary care, people with HIV/AIDS, pregnant women, and mothers. HRSA also supports the training of health professionals; oversees organ, bone marrow, and cord blood conation; compensates individuals harmed by vaccination; and maintains databases that protect against healthcare malpractice, waste, fraud and abuse.

Research into the populations that HRSA serves is critical to improving healthcare in a variety of ways for these populations. The new collection, which includes 6 research articles and a policy forum article, addresses such wide-ranging issues as how home visits can address maternal depression, how to increase access to housing services for people with HIV, and how to identify at-risk populations to inform health workforce and health care planning.

In one research article, Sue Lin of HRSA and colleagues used data from the 2014 Health Center Patient Survey to assess the prevalence of self-reported mental health conditions among female patients of reproductive age and examine the association between depression and health conditions including obesity, hypertension, smoking and diabetes. Patients with depression had two to three times higher odds of experiencing co-occurring physical health conditions, the study found.

In another, Marci Sontag of the University of Colorado Denver and colleagues assessed the timeliness and quality of newborn screening programs across the country. These programs are critical to early identification and treatment of affected infants prior to onset of symptoms. The researchers showed that the percent of specimens collected before 48 hours of life improved from 95% in 2016 to 97% in 2018 and that time-critical result reporting also improved during this time frame. The results help inform future efforts to improve newborn screening.

A third manuscript described how Veni Kandasamy of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and colleagues examined the regional variation in Black infant mortality around the United States. The mortality rate among Black infants varied 1.5-fold across regions, they showed. Factors including a state’s maternal and child health care budget helped, in part, explain this variance.

These articles, and the others included in the Special Collection, not only help provide quantitative measures of the progress that HRSA has made in improving care for underserved communities around the country over recent years, but will shape future endeavors to improve this care.

“The wide range of topics covered in this collection demonstrate the diverse needs of the populations HRSA serves,” said Tom Engels, the HRSA Administrator. “We hope the insight shared in these articles can raise awareness on key issues and inform future health care.”

About HRSA: Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is the primary U.S. federal agency for improving health care through its 90-plus programs and more than 3000 grantees to people who are geographically isolated, economically or medically vulnerable. HRSA’s mission is to improve health outcomes and address health disparities through access to quality services, a skilled health workforce, and innovative, high-value programs.

For more information about HRSA, visit ________________________________________
Image Credit: Hush Naidoo, Unsplash,

Image Caption: A woman getting her blood pressure tested.

Funding: Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


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