Cutler Institute

Maine Rural Health Research Center FAQ

Who are we?

The Maine Rural Health Research Center (MRHRC) was founded in 1992 to inform healthcare policymaking and the delivery of rural health services through research, policy analysis, and technical assistance. We are one of eight national rural health research and policy analysis centers funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) in the Health Resources and Services Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services. The MRHRC is a collaborating partner in the Flex Monitoring Team that evaluates the impact of the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program, and in the Rural Telehealth Research Center (initiatives also funded by the FORHP). The MRHRC also conducts research and technical assistance projects with support from a variety of state, federal, and private foundation sources.

Where are we located?

Located in Portland, Maine, the MRHRC is based in the University of Southern Maine’s, Muskie School of Public Service. The MRHRC draws on the faculty and staff resources of the Muskie School’s academic programs and the Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy.

Who directs the MRHRC?

Andrew Coburn, PhD, Director

Andrew Coburn is Research Professor of Public Health and the founding director of the Maine Rural Health Research Center. A member of the Rural Policy Research Institute's Expert Health Panel, he has served on the Institute of Medicine's Committee on the Future of Rural Health Care, and has testified many times in Washington on rural health issues. In 2000, he received the Distinguished Researcher Award from the National Rural Health Association. His rural research interests have been on the patterns of health insurance coverage for rural populations, rural health clinics, rural hospital patient safety, and the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program.

Erika Ziller, PhD, Deputy Director

Raised in rural Maine, where she later worked as a health educator, Erika has first-hand experience with many of the health care challenges that rural families face. These experiences fueled her commitment to policy-informed research aimed at reducing health disparities for vulnerable populations, particularly those who call rural places home. She has directed numerous studies on rural health access, health insurance coverage, and health reform, including a recent analysis of health care affordability for rural children with Medicaid or CHIP versus private insurance. In 2011, Erika received the Louis Gorin Award for Outstanding Achievement in Rural Health Care from the National Rural Health Association in recognition of her contributions to rural health policy.

Who are our core staff?

MRHRC staff members have extensive capabilities in rural health services and policy research. With a core staff of 10, we have well-established and experienced research teams with both content and methodological expertise appropriate to their area of rural research. The MRHRC draws on the multidisciplinary faculty and research resources and capacity of the Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy—providing us the ability to engage in both quantitative and qualitative research. Visit our staff page for more information.

What are our areas of research?

For over 20 years, our research agenda has focused on the health care access problems facing rural residents, especially those with financial barriers due to lack of insurance or under-insurance, those with behavioral health issues, and those in need of long-term services and supports (LTSS). Our work has helped reveal the role of policy and health system organization and financing on rural health access.

The MRHRC conducts studies and projects with a national, state, and/or local focus. To achieve a systemic understanding of rural health access, our work has focused on the continuum of health care services from preventive and primary care, to emergency and hospital care, and to the long-term services and supports (LTSS) needs of rural seniors and individuals with disabilities. Our Center’s work as part of the Flex Monitoring Team involves research on the community benefit and population health strategies of Critical Access Hospitals in 45 states. In Maine we have worked on projects related to health system transformation and innovative models for healthcare delivery, including community In 2016, we released the Maine Rural Health Profiles, in partnership with the Maine Health Access Foundation, which offers a detailed look at the status of rural health and the rural health system, both statewide and in each of Maine’s 16 counties. Visit our MRHRC publications page to view the scope of our research efforts.

Who funds us?

Since 1992, we have received core funding from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP). FORHP was created in 1987 to advise the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on health care issues impacting rural communities. Funding for the MRHRC is part of the FORHP-funded Rural Health Research Centers Program, which is the only Federal research program entirely dedicated to producing policy-relevant research on health care and population health in rural areas. Research from these eight FORHP-funded rural health research centers is available on the Rural Health Research Gateway.

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