AHEC FORUMS ASSESS HEALTH CARE ACCESS IN UNDERSERVED AREAS
Des Moines, June 23, 2009 – A local initiative is working to improve access to health care in Iowa’s underserved areas. The Central Iowa Area Health Education Center (AHEC) program is holding a series of community forums to discuss the state of health care in Iowa, and particularly how to address health care needs in rural areas.
“Iowa has several rural areas that are highly underserved,” explained Jill Whitson, MPH, executive director of the Central Iowa Area Health Education Center. “We need to work through the issues and develop strategies to bring access to health care to these areas. Our longer-term goals include enhancing local efforts in addressing specific community needs in health care.”
The first session was held in May at Broadlawns Medical Center. Two additional meetings are scheduled this summer. The next session will be on Thursday, July 16 at Greene County Medical Center in Jefferson, Iowa, and the last on Monday, August 3, at Grinnell Regional Medical Center in Grinnell, Iowa. The findings from the three community forums will be compiled to create a strategic plan to address the need of rural health care access in the Central Iowa AHEC service area, which includes the eight counties of Boone, Dallas, Greene, Guthrie, Jasper, Polk, Poweshiek and Story.
Community leaders, health care professionals, students and consumers are invited to the forums to discuss a variety of topics including barriers to health care services in underserved areas, activities that encourage students to enter health care careers, and the shortage of providers in Central Iowa.
AHEC is a centralized, regional network that coordinates clinics, hospitals and medical staff to recruit and retain health care workers in rural areas, address workforce shortages and educate students about career options in health care.
The programming is focused on three population groups as it works to enhance local efforts in addressing specific community needs:
- Programs to encourage interest in health care careers among kindergarten through undergraduate students.
- Opportunities for health care students to gain clinical experiences in rural and underserved areas.
- Continuing education opportunities for practicing health professionals to address the unique challenges of serving the underserved.
Although the federal AHEC program has been in existence for nearly 25 years, Iowa did not have a program until Des Moines University began one in 2007 through a federal grant initiative. The first center in Iowa opened in June 2008 at Allen Hospital in Waterloo. The Central Iowa AHEC opened its doors in November 2008 at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines.
Today, 56 AHEC programs with 221 centers operate in the United States, partnering with 120 medical schools and 600 nursing or allied health schools. Over the next few years, Des Moines University plans to open a total of four centers in Iowa focusing on 63 counties north of I-80.
To learn more about the Central Iowa Area Health Education Center, please visit www.iowaahec.org or contact Jill Whitson at 515-282-5721 or firstname.lastname@example.org
This effort was supported by Grant Number #5U76HP08261 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’ Health Resources and Services Administration (Bureau of Health Professions) and Des Moines University. The contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the supporting entities.”
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