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Shortage Area Designations

Shortage area designations are evaluated by the Office of Primary Care and Rural Health (OPCRH) to ensure underserved communities may participate in federal and state programs targeting their unique needs. The shortage designations include Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) and Medically Underserved Areas/Populations (MUA/P).

Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA)

HPSA designations indicate a deficiency of health professionals serving the community.

There are two types of designations:

  1. Geographic HPSAs
    Designation of a geographical service area demonstrating a shortage of providers in comparison to the whole population.
  2. Low-Income HPSAs
    Designation of the low-income population with a given service area. This demonstrates a shortage of providers serving Medicaid and Sliding Fee Scale patients in comparison to the low-income population.

There are three specialties that are reviewed for HPSA designations.

       1. Primary Care -- Health professionals measured include MDs and DOs practicing family medicine, general medicine, general pediatrics, general internal medicine, and general OB/GYN services. 

       2. Mental Health -- Health professionals measured include MDs practicing general and child psychiatry only.

       3. Dental Health -- Dentists measured include those practicing general and pediatric dentistry only.

Active designations are automatically reviewed on a three-year rotation as determined by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

Maternity Care Target Areas (MCTAs)

MCTAs are high-need, primary care HPSAs that meet specific criteria based on the ratio of females ages 15-44 to maternity care providers, low-income women, distance/travel time to care, fertility rates, social vulnerability, and maternal health indicators (pre-pregnancy diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and early access to prenatal care). 

Medically Underserved Area/Population (MUA/P)

MUA/P designations signify a shortage of primary care services as reflected through a shortage of health professionals and certain health status indicators. These designations are not required to be updated at this time but are reviewed in conjunction with HPSA reviews.

Shortage of Obstetrical (OB) Services in Rural Alabama

OB services in Alabama's rural areas have contracted significantly in recent years, as depicted on this map of rural OB service loss from 1980 - 2024


If you would like additional information, please contact Primary Care Office Program Manager Robert Jordan via email or at (334) 206-5425.

Page last updated: July 5, 2024