Affordable Access

Improving access to capital for health care infrastructure: the experience of the Southern Rural Access Program's revolving loan fund.

  • Stewart, M Kathryn
  • Beachler, Michael
  • Slayton, Deborah
Published Article
The Journal of rural health : official journal of the American Rural Health Association and the National Rural Health Care Association
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2003
19 Suppl
PMID: 14526523


Lack of access to affordable capital is a formidable barrier that compromises rural health care infrastructure development in poor rural areas. Commercial lending institutions are often limited in their ability to respond to those needs due to traditional lending criteria: creditworthiness, equity, management ability, experiences, and cash flow or profits. In the Southern Rural Access Program, a development model more frequently used in other sectors has been successfully applied to health care to help clear these hurdles. This paper describes the 5 operational loan funds in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and West Virginia receiving support from the Southern Rural Access Program. Two models of loan funds have evolved: those led by health agencies and those led by community development finance institutions whose mission is rural economic development. This paper outlines major distinctive features of these 2 approaches and describes major implementation challenges these loan funds face. Key accomplishments are high-lighted, including the ability to leverage additional resources from state, federal, philanthropic, and private sources through these funds. These loan fund programs provide models for other states interested in improving access to capital to help build the rural health care infrastructure while making health care more economically viable through integration with other community development initiatives.

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