Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs)

Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) refer to designated areas where there is a shortage in health care providers focused on primary care, dental health, or mental health. These shortages may refer to a Geographic Area, a shortage of providers for the population of an entire area, Population Groups, a shortage of providers for specific population groups in a defined geographic area, or Facility-based, where there is a shortage of professionals in a given facility setting.

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FAQs About Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs)

How do you define and determine shortage?

A health workforce shortage means that there are not enough health care workers or not enough workers in specific professions, specialties, or settings to adequately serve patientsā€™ needs. Shortage is defined in different ways for different purposes. It is important to understand the difference between ā€œshortageā€ and ā€œmaldistributionā€, particularly at the state and national level. Data and models may indicate that the nation or state has a sufficient supply of health professionals. However, this supply may not be evenly distributed across the country or state, creating pockets of shortage, especially in rural areas.

The Shortage Designation Branch at HRSA works with state Primary Care Offices (PCOs) to assign shortage designations to geographic areas, populations, and facilities that have too few providers and services; these are then eligible to receive certain federal resources. Designations include primary care, mental health, and dental Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) and Medically Underserved Areas and Populations (MUA/P). See for additional information on shortage areas.


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