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 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 Health Careers Are 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.
Students typically think of doctors, nurses and dentists when contemplating health careers. There are over 250 careers available, in healthcare, which cover a wide variety of skills and ability levels.
Lastly, rural communities are faced with challenges to accessing health care, such as long distance travel to receive medical care, shortage of healthcare workers in rural areas and the impact of socioeconomic factors.
In 2001, Northwest Indiana AHEC was the second regional center established by the State of Indiana. It is hosted by Purdue University Northwest’s College of Nursing. This partnership enhances both program’s mission and goals. We strive to establish educational, recruitment and outreach programs, interprofessional collaborations and professional training in eight counties of Northwest Indiana. These counties include: Lake, Porter, LaPorte, St. Joseph, Starke, Marshall, Newton and Jasper.
NWI AHEC’s mission is to increase DIVERSITY, DISTRIBUTION and QUALITY of health care providers for underserved populations in the urban and rural communities, we serve.
We strive to provide educational and training programs to help increase the healthcare workforce in underserved and rural communities. We do this by:
- Connecting youth to health care careers by Providing EDUCATION
We provide educational programming for students in grades 8-12, todevelop a workforce pipeline in the health care field, with a focus on students in urban and rural communities.
- Classroom Presentations
- Health Fair Exhibits
- Teaching Models and Resources
- Fieldtrips and Shadowing Experiences
- Summer Camps and Enrichment Programs for Students
- Engaging health profession students by providing learning EXPERIENCES
We engage students enrolled in health profession programs, by providing experiences and exposure within the underserved urban and rural communities.
- AHEC Scholars Fellowship
- Establishing clinical rotation sites in underserved areas
- Facilitating Cultural Awareness activities
- Providing opportunities for service learning through volunteering and being role models for youth
- Providing SUPPORT for Practicing Professionals by offering professional programming
We provide support for professionals currently practicing,in the health care field by assisting with resources, access to technology and continuing education opportunities for practitioners working in urban or rural under-served communities.
- Promoting links and resources to current information on Best Practices
- Promoting continuing education programs
- Sponsoring attendance at conferences
- Assisting preceptors of health profession students