Primary Care Office

The Primary Care Office (PCO) works to improve access to services for underserved populations, especially those who remain at increased risk of illness and premature death. The PCO supports and enhances health systems programming to optimize effectiveness and eliminate health disparities. Working and collaborating with internal and external stakeholders the PCO creates an environment in which health care professionals can carry out or facilitate the Core Public Health Functions, assure the provision of Essential Public Health Services, and advance the goals of Chapter 1 of Healthy Iowans 2010, Access to Quality Health Services. The PCO adopts the Institute of Medicines definition of primary care and acknowledges that it includes not only medical care but public health, mental health and oral health services.

Primary care is the provision of integrated, accessible health care services by clinicians who are accountable for addressing a large majority of personal health care needs, developing a sustained partnership with patients, and practicing in the context of family and community. (IOM 1996)

J-1 Visa Waiver Requests 2017-2018

Phase 1 of the department's J-1 Visa Waiver Applications process has closed. At the close of Phase 1 (October 27, 2017), the department received 37 applications. Of the 37 application, eight (8) applications are non-designated (Flex) slots. 

During Phase 1, If more than 30 requests are received, reviewers may consider factors such as:

  1. primary care/specialty care,
  2. rural/urban location,
  3. impact on service to Iowa’s underserved populations,
  4. number of recent waivers approved for the applying health care facility/health system,
  5. number of recent waivers approved for the applying geographic location within the state (i.e., the goal is that no one facility, city, or shortage area will receive an unbalanced number of approvals)

What We Do

The PCO promotes expansion of health care resources for vulnerable populations which include:

  • uninsured,
  • homeless,
  • migrants,
  • chronically ill, and
  • those who live in areas with no access to primary care services.

Program Activities

  • Primary care access analysis and intervention planning
  • Shortage area designation submission
  • Project development and grant application assistance
  • National Health Service Corps site development and primary care provider recruitment and retention assistance
  • Assistance in student recruitment into primary care service-oriented careers
  • Sponsorship of J-1 Visa Waiver Physicians
  • Consultation and technical assistance in health care reform and public health redesign

Health Professional Shortage Areas

Shortage designations are designed to identify communities with diminishing health care services and provide them with opportunities to improve access to and availability of care. By identifying health care shortage areas, communities become eligible for state and federal assistance to recruit and retain health professionals, access additional reimbursement dollars, and eventually alleviate the shortage.

Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) and Medically Underserved Areas (MUA), established under the US Public Health Service Act (Sections 330 and 332), are federal designations of geographic areas (population groups or facilities) which meet the criteria as needing additional primary health care services.

NOTE: These designations are produced based on federal guidelines and approval letters from Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). In issues of extreme importance such as verification for grants or other applications, always consult the official federal listing with the Bureau of Health Workforce (BHW), Shortage Designation Branch (SDB) at: HRSA Data Warehouse

Designation as a HPSA or MUA is based on the availability of health professional resources within a rational service area. The definition of a rational service area is based on demographics and travel time to the nearest sources of care. Other factors considered in the designation process are the availability of primary care resources in contiguous areas, and the presence of unusually high needs, such as a high infant mortality rate or poverty rate.

The Primary Care Office within the Bureau of Oral and Health Delivery Systems requests and maintains shortage designations for Iowa. The following information represents the status of HPSAs in Iowa at the time these documents were produced, and will be updated January and July, as needed.

The HRSA Data Warehouse site is considered to be the sole official website in determining the current designated status of a federal shortage area. Scroll down the page to Quick Access Reports and Find Shortage Areas to determine the appropriate designation for your area. If you know the exact address of the location, your may also use the Shortage Designation Advisory page.

Additional Resources

Web Resources

Contact Information

Primary Care Office
Phone: (515) 423-2690
Fax: (515) 242-6384
HPSA designation: (515) 242-6879