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.
NAO welcomes and accepts diversity in the broadest context to recognize, value, and learn from all people of varying cultural backgrounds regardless and inclusive of age, physical/mental ability, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, language, national origin, religion, socioecenomic status, and geographic region.
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 (e.g. Zika), and substance use disorders.
Today, 46 AHEC programs with more than 261 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. The national AHEC network consists of more than 300 AHEC program offices and centers, serving over 85% of the counties in the United States, with more than 45 years of experience.