The AHEC (Area Health Education Centers) program was developed by Congress in 1971 to recruit, train and retain a health professions workforce committed to underserved populations. The AHEC program helps bring the resources of academic medicine to address local community health needs. The strength of the AHEC Network is its ability to creatively adapt national initiatives to help address local and regional healthcare issues.
The purpose of the AHEC program is to meet the needs of the communities they serve through robust community-academic partnerships, with a focus on exposure, education, and training of the current and future health care workforce, such as the development of an AHEC Scholars program. AHECs have a continual focus on improving the health care system by working with academic institutions, health care settings (including CHCs), behavioral health practices, and community-based organizations. Through these longstanding partnerships, the AHECs employ traditional and innovative approaches to develop and train a diverse health care workforce prepared to deliver culturally appropriate, high-quality, team-based care, with an emphasis on primary care for rural and underserved communities.
AHECs are embedded in the communities they serve, positioning them to respond rapidly to emergent training needs of health professionals, health professions students, and interprofessional teams on issues associated with natural disasters, disease outbreaks and substance use disorders.
Today, over 85% of the counties in the United States counties are served by an AHEC program.