Health Professional Shortage Areas

Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) designation is a prerequisite to apply for National Health Service Corps (NHSC) assistance. NHSC health professionals with a service obligation may serve only in federally designated HPSAs. HPSA designations are based on the evaluation of underservice criteria established to qualify either geographic areas, population groups or facilities as having a shortage of:

  • primary health care providers for a Primary Care HPSA
  • dentists for a Dental HPSA
  • mental health professionals for a Mental Health HPSA

All Federally Qualified Health Centers are designated as automatic facility Primary Care, Dental and Mental Health HPSAs. Criteria to designate other areas, groups are facilities as HPSAs include:

  • area is rational for the delivery of health services
  • specified population to provider ratio representing shortage is exceeded within the area
    • Primary Care - Geographic HPSA: 3,500:1 ratio; Geographic with High Need HPSA: 3,000:1 ratio; Low Income HPSA: 3,000:1 ratio
    • Dental - Geographic HPSA: 5,000:1 ratio; Geographic with High Need HPSA: 4,000:1 ratio; Low Income HPSA: 4,000:1 ratio
    • Mental Health - Geographic, Geographic with High Need and Low Income HPSA: varies; see guidelines for details
  • resources in contiguous areas are over-utilized, excessively distant, or otherwise inaccessible

If an area is designated, the HPSA score is based on:

  • population to provider ratio - for all HPSAs
  • % of population below poverty - for all HPSAs
  • infant mortality rate or low birthweight rate - for primary care HPSAs
  • water not fluoridated - for dental HPSAs
  • youth & elderly ratio, substance abuse & alcohol abuse prevalence - for mental health HPSAs
  • travel time or distance - for all HPSAs

To recruit NHSC Loan Repayors, health centers with a very low HPSA score can apply; to recruit NHSC Scholars, health centers must have a HPSA score 16 or higher to apply.

Click here for detailed guidelines and criteria for requesting a HPSA designation.

Click here to view a list of current HPSA sites or call the League to find out if a certain area is currently designated.