Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) and Medically Underserved Areas/Populations (MUA/Ps)

HPSAs are areas that have been determined to have a critical shortage of primary care, dental care, and/or mental health care providers per the guidelines of the Shortage Designation Branch of the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). A number of federal and state programs depend upon shortage designation to determine eligibility and/or prioritize funding to the areas of highest need.

Types of HPSA designations


A shortage of providers for the entire population within a defined geographic area.


A shortage of providers for a specific population group(s) within a defined geographic area. A population group must be one of the following:

  • Low income populutions;
  • Migrant or seasonal farmworkers;
  • Medicaid eligible;
  • Native Americans;
  • Homeless populations; or
  • Other populations isolated from access by means of a specified language, cultural barriers, or handicaps.


A designation specific to a public or private facility that serves high need populations such as:

  • State correctional facilities;
  • State psychiatric hospitals;
  • Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs);
  • FQHC Look-a-likes;
  • Indian Health Centers; and
  • Rural Health Clinics meeting National health Service Corps site requirements.


Federal criteria must be met for an area to be designated. Some of criteria considered include the area's population to provider ratio, the percent of the population at or below 100% of the federal pover level, travel time to the nearest source of care, and other factors that vary based on HPSA discipline. Once the data is collected and reviewed for the analysis area, a request is sent to HRSA for approval as an official shortage designation. Each designation is scored to show the severity of the shortage. Scores range from 0 to 25 (0 to 26 for dental), with 25 (or 26 for dental) having the greatest shortage.

To request an evaluation for a new designation or rescore for an already established designation, contact the RHPCP office.

Finding Designations

Use HRSA's HPSA find or areas by address. Please note that searching areas by address will not identify facility HPSAs.

Medically Underserved Areas/Populations

The federal Medically Underserved Area/Population (MUA/P) designation identifies areas or populations as having a need for medical services on the basis of demographic data that shows that the area/population has either too few primary care providers, high infant mortality, high poverty and/or high elderly population.

These designations can be used by those seeking to open Rural Health Clinics or by J1 visa waiver applicants who, unless assigned a flex waiver, must be able to demonstrate that the facility they work in is either in a HPSA or a MUA or serves a medically underserved population (MUP).

To find MUA/P designations, search HRSA's MUA find or areas by address.