WHAT THE HECK IS AHEC?
The AHEC (Area Health Education Center) program was developed by Congress, in 1971, to recruit, train and retain a health profession workforce committed to providing care, for underserved populations, in urban and rural communities. AHEC is a nonprofit organization funded by federal and state grants. AHEC focuses on providing exposure, education, and training for current and future health care professionals. This is accomplished by developing and maintaining academic and building community partnerships.
Today, the national AHEC network consists of more than 300 AHEC program offices and centers, operating in almost every state and the District of Columbia. AHECs are embedded in the communities they serve, which positions them, to respond rapidly to local and regional healthcare issues and the emergent training needs of health professionals, health professions students, and interprofessional teams. AHEC’s work collaboratively with approximately, 120 medical schools and 600 nursing and allied health schools, to improve health for underserved and under-represented populations.
WHY ARE HEALTH CAREERS THE FOCUS Of AHEC?
The “Baby Boomers” are rapidly approaching retirement age. When this generation is no longer part of our workforce, many job vacancies will be created causing a huge shortage in healthcare fields throughout the US. There is concern for the lack of trained professionals to fill the vacancies and as this large population ages, their need for medical care increases. There simply will not be enough healthcare professionals to meet the growing needs of this aging population.
The lack of diversity is another issue to consider among healthcare providers. Most often people are more comfortable interacting with cultures and backgrounds, similar to their own. Language barriers are often a problem in communicating ailments and receiving treatment or proper care. Therefore, there is need to increase the number of students going into health careers and the diversity of students entering these fields. It is extremely important to the health and well-being of our society.
Lastly, rural communities are faced with challenges accessing health care, such as long distance travel, shortage of healthcare workers and the impact of socioeconomic factors.