Health Services Administration

Health Services Administration

The Health Resources and Services Administration (or HRSA), is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services located in Rockville, Maryland. It is the primary federal agency for improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated or medically vulnerable.

Comprising six bureaus and 13 offices, HRSA provides leadership and financial support to health care providers in every state and U.S. territory. HRSA grantees provide health care to uninsured people, people living with HIV/AIDS, and pregnant women, mothers and children. They train health professionals and improve systems of care in rural communities.

HRSA oversees organ, bone marrow and cord blood donation. It supports programs that prepare against bioterrorism, compensate individuals harmed by vaccination, and maintains databases that protect against health care malpractice and health care waste, fraud and abuse.

Since 1943 the agencies that were HRSA precursors have worked to improve the health of needy people. HRSA was created in 1982, when the Health Resources Administration and the Health Services Administration were merged.

On February 20, 2009, President Obama announced the appointment of one of the nation’s top rural health care professionals as Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Dr. Mary Wakefield, Director of the Center for Rural Health at the University of North Dakota, oversees this critical agency, which helps to deliver health care to those who are uninsured and underserved by our current health care system.


The agency lists seven goals:

  • Improve Access to Health Care.
  • Improve Health Outcomes.
  • Improve the Quality of Health Care.
  • Eliminate Health Disparities.
  • Improve the Public Health and Health Care Systems.
  • Enhance the Ability of the Health Care System to Respond to Public Health Emergencies.
  • Achieve Excellence in Management Practices

Key facts

  • HRSA programs reach into every corner of America. The agency's $7 billion budget (FY 2008) provides direct health care to 23 million people.
  • HRSA’s health center program supports medical, oral and behavioral health services to uninsured and underinsured individuals through a nationwide network of community-based clinics and mobile medical vans. By bringing comprehensive primary and preventive health care services to inner-city and rural communities that otherwise would be without them, health centers improve the health of their communities and relieve pressure on overburdened hospital emergency rooms. The agency also recruits doctors, nurses, dentists and others to work in areas with too few health care professionals.
  • HRSA funds life-sustaining medication and primary care to about half of the estimated number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. The agency also furnishes funds and expertise that save and improve the lives of millions of mothers and children.
  • HRSA oversees all organ, tissue and blood cell donations and is the federal agency primarily responsible for pediatric poison control. HRSA also maintains databases that track cases of health care malpractice and compensates individuals thought to be harmed by vaccinations.
  • The agency monitors trends in the health care workforce and forecasts future demand. Scholarships and academic loan programs encourage greater minority participation in the health professions and seek to maintain an adequate supply of primary care professionals.

Primary Health Care

HRSA funds almost 1,110 health center grantees that operate more than 7,000 clinics and mobile medical vans. Health centers deliver primary and preventive care to over 16 million low-income patients in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and U.S. possessions in the Pacific.


The agency’s Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program provides primary care, support services and antiretroviral drugs for about 530,000 low-income people. The program also funds training, technical assistance and demonstration projects designed to slow the spread of the epidemic in high-risk populations. These services avert more costly in-patient care and improve the quality of life for those living with the virus.

Maternal and Child Health Bureau

HRSA administers a broad range of programs for pregnant women, mothers, infants, children, adolescents and their families and children with special health care requirements. The largest of the programs, the Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant to States, supports local efforts to reduce infant mortality and childhood illness and control costs associated with poor pre- and neo-natal care. The Block Grant includes State Formula Block Grants, Special Projects of Regional and National Significance (SPRANS), and Community Integrated Service Systems (CISS) projects. Other vital missions include Universal Newborn Hearing Screening, Traumatic Brain Injury, Healthy Start, Sickle Cell Service Demonstrations, Family to Family Health Information Centers, Emergency Medical Services for Children, and autism.

Among the most successful public health initiatives in U.S. history, HRSA's maternal and child health programs annually serve more than 34 million people. Maternal and Child Health Bureau

Rural Health

To make health care more accessible for the 60 million residents of rural America, HRSA funds programs that integrate and streamline existing rural health care institutions and aid in the recruitment and retention of physicians in rural hospitals and clinics. HRSA’s telehealth program uses information technology to link isolated rural practitioners to medical institutions over great distances. Many of these activities are designed and operated out of the Agency's Office of Rural Health Policy.

Clinician Recruitment and Service

The agency strives to ensure a health care workforce that is diverse, well-trained and adequately distributed throughout the nation. In exchange for financial assistance through National Health Service Corps scholarships and student loan repayment programs, more than 28,000 clinicians have served in some of the most economically deprived and geographically isolated communities in America over the past 35 years.

Health Professions

Many regions of the country—and various health disciplines—face serious workforce shortages. HRSA safeguards the foundations of the U.S. health care system by targeting grants to academic institutions to support post-graduate faculty retention; administering scholarships to increase staff in critical specialties, such as nursing; and funding leadership development programs. These programs leverage the educations of about 10,000 clinicians annually.

Healthcare Systems

HRSA oversees the nation’s organ and tissue donation and transplantation systems, and a drug discount program for certain safety-net health care providers. The agency also supports the nation’s poison control centers and vaccine injury compensation programs, which distribute awards to individuals and families thought to have been injured by certain vaccines.

Health administration or healthcare administration is the field relating to leadership, management, and administration of hospitals, hospital networks, health care systems, and public health systems. Health care administrators are considered health care professionals.

The discipline is known by many names, including health management, healthcare management, health systems management, health care systems management, and medical and health services management.

Education and training

A master's degree is considered the "standard credential" for most health administrators in the United States. There are multiple recognized degree types that are considered equivalent from the perspective of professional preparation.

The Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) is the accrediting body overseeing master's-level programs in the United States and Canada on behalf of the United States Department of Education. It accredits several degree program types, including Master of Health Services Administration (MHSA), Master of Business Administration in Hospital Management (MBA-HM), Master of Health Administration (MHA), Master of Public Health (MPH, MSPH, MSHPM), Master of Science (MS-HSM, MS-HA), and Master of Public Administration (MPA).

Professional Organizations

There are numerous professional associations related to health systems management, which can be subcategorized as either personal or institutional membership groups. Personal membership groups are joined by individuals, and typically have individual skill and career development as their focus. Larger personal membership groups include the American College of Healthcare Executives, the Healthcare Financial Management Association, and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. Institutional membership groups are joined by organizations; they typically focus on organizational effectiveness, and may also include data-sharing agreements and other best-practice sharing vehicles for member organizations. Prominent examples include the American Hospital Association and the University Healthsystems Consortium.

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