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AHEC Overview & Mission

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.

Today, 56 AHEC programs with more than 235 centers operate in almost every state and the District of Columbia. Approximately 120 medical schools and 600 nursing and allied health schools work collaboratively with AHECs to improve health for underserved and under-represented populations.


®    Over 379,000 students introduced to health career opportunities

®    Over 33,000 students received more than 20 hours of health career exposure, information and academic enhancements to prepare them for health professions training programs


®    Over 44,000 health professions students received training at 17,530 community-based sites

®    Nearly 8,000 of the community-based training sites were located in underserved areas, including over 3,500 in designated Health Professions Shortage Areas (HPSAs) and almost 1,000 at Community Health Centers

®    Over 60% of the health professions students were physicians (42%) or nurses (19%)



®    Over 482,000 health professionals received training through AHEC continuing education programs

®    Almost half of the continuing education program participants were physicians (26%) or nurses (20%)

®    Awarded 1.1 million contact hours of continuing education programs


NAO Committee on Research and Evaluation 2008, CPMS/UPR AHEC funding
at the federal level is through the Bureau of Health Professions, HRSA

Imbalances in our healthcare system result in marked inequities in access to and quality of healthcare services. This perpetuates disparities in health status and the under-representation of minority and disadvantaged individuals in the healthcare workforce. AHEC programs play a key role in correcting these inequities and strengthening the nation’s health care safety net. Through community-based interdisciplinary training programs, AHECs identify, motivate, recruit, train, and retain a health care workforce committed to underserved populations.

AHEC Mission

The National AHEC Organization represents a network of more than 300 AHEC program offices and centers that serve over 85% of United States counties. The NAO mission is to help its members achieve the AHEC mission through advocacy, education, and research. The AHEC mission is to enhance access to quality health care, particularly primary and preventive care, by improving the supply and distribution of healthcare professionals via strategic partnerships with academic programs, communities, and professional organizations.


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