A healthy Indiana needs healthy communities. And it needs health care professionals located in all areas of the state from the inner cities to the rural neighborhoods prepared to help educate citizens about health problems and issues and to provide quality service. Area Health Education Centers (AHECs) play an important role in providing communities with health care professionals prepared to meet their needs.
Today, 54 AHEC programs with more than 200 centers operate in almost every state and the District of Columbia. An AHEC is a network of regional “centers” that are coordinated through a central “program” office. Each regional center is locally grown and is designed to assess and meet the needs of citizens in that specific region. AHECs perform four basic functions:
- Assist in the ambulatory training of health professionals. Health professionals who train in underserved communities are much more likely to serve those populations when their training is completed.
- Provide continuing education, especially for providers to the underserved. Continuing education programs improve the quality of care and enhance professional satisfaction, both of which contribute to provider retention.
- Recruit minority students into the health professions careers. Minority health professionals are substantially more likely to serve vulnerable populations then their majority counterparts.
- Respond to emerging health issues by distributing information necessary for practitioners and facilities to address critical health issues and threats in a timely way.
In accomplishing these goals, the AHEC can improve the quality of health care, especially primary and preventative care.