Utica, NY (WIBX) - Nearly 62 million U.S. residents live in rural areas facing the challenge of attracting healthcare professionals to their communities.

To raise awareness, the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health is celebrating National Rural Health Day.

Adam Hutchinson, executive director of Herkimer County HealthNet, says hospitals in cities like Little Falls perform a vital role in communities.

"Little Falls Hospital, for example, employs 275 people," Hutchinson said. "Those 275 people in Little Falls Hospital saw about 15,000 E.R. visits, in 2011, and about 33,000 outpatient visits."

But, Hutchinson also points out the Herkimer County is a Health Professional Shortage Area, lacking primary and mental health providers.

By increasing awareness, he says healthcare for rural citizens will continue to improve.