This is What We Do
Connecting Students to Careers, Professionals to Communities, and Communities to Better Health
The AHEC (Area Health Education Centers) program was developed by Congress in 1971. The goal of this federally funded program is to improve health care access through the training, recruitment, and retention of diverse health professionals who are committed to helping underserved populations. By applying academic medicine resources, the AHEC program aims to contribute to addressing local community health needs.
The way they are structured, AHECs can be flexible and creative when adapting national health initiatives to the particular needs of the nation’s most vulnerable communities. Most AHEC programs receive both state and federal funding. Today, 54 AHEC programs with more than 200 centers operate in almost every state, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, and Micronesia. At present, AHECs work collaboratively with approximately 120 medical schools and 600 nursing and allied health schools to improve health for underserved and underrepresented populations.
The imbalance in the quality of health and access to health care across racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups is reflected in racial and ethnic disparities in health status. It is also evident in the underrepresentation of disadvantaged and minority individuals in the health care workforce.
AHECs play an important role in correcting these inequities and strengthening the nation’s health care safety net. Through community-based training programs, AHEC creates and trains a diverse workforce of health care professionals and inspires them to practice in communities that need them the most.
In 1995, the Connecticut General Assembly established the Connecticut AHEC Program. The program received its initial federal funding from the Human Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in 1997. Southwestern AHEC, Inc. was then established in 1998 as a center at Housatonic Community College to serve southern Fairfield and New Haven counties. With federal funding set to decrease in 2002, Southwestern AHEC, Inc. moved to Sacred Heart University for the purpose of seeking other funding sources and to become a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization. In January of 2006, Southwestern AHEC, Inc. left Sacred Heart University to reconfigure and implement its 501(c)(3) status.