The Arizona Area Health Education Center (AzAHEC) program at the Arizona University of Health Sciences recently selected the Arizona Indian Health Care Advisory Council to develop a new AHEC Regional Center for the Health of American Indians dedicated to developing health professional education initiatives and expanding access to health care. for the tribal communities of Arizona.
The new American Indian Health (AIH) AHEC Regional Center will be the sixth AHEC Regional Center in Arizona. It is the first in the state and one of the few in the United States outside of Alaska to focus exclusively on the American Indian health care system and its workforce.
American Indians have some of the highest rates of health disparities, poverty and poor health outcomes compared to other ethnic and minority communities in the United States, according to Indian Health Service.
“Arizona’s tribes are experiencing a severe shortage of medical professionals compared to other areas of the state,” said Leila Barraza, JD, MPH, director of the AzAHEC program and associate professor of community, environment and policy at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. “The new Regional American Indian Health Center can begin to alleviate some of these shortages by working closely with our tribal health systems and enhancing their current workforce strategies.”
The mission of the AzAHEC program is “to improve access to quality health care, particularly primary and preventive care, by improving the supply and distribution of health professionals through educational partnerships with the community university in underserved rural and urban areas”.
In collaboration with the San Carlos Apache Healthcare Corporation and Gila River Health Care, the AIH-AHEC Regional Center will implement education and training activities to improve the supply and distribution of healthcare professionals within tribal communities .
The AIH-AHEC Regional Center will help build a future health workforce by providing community health profession rotations, assisting with continuing education, supporting health personnel, and promoting health care careers for students from kindergarten to 12th grade.
“This center will host a myriad of programs that ensure that children and young people are exposed to health professions from an early age and feel empowered to practice these professions, equipped with essential cultural knowledge and skills to have a direct impact. on the health of their own communities,” said Kim Russell, director of the Arizona Indian Health Care Advisory Council. “He will be uniquely positioned to address disparities in concert with AHEC’s five other regional centers in Arizona, the University of Arizona, and AzAHEC program leaders and resources across all health professions.”
It will also host an AHEC Scholars Program, which provides students with community-based experiential training in rural or underserved settings.
In addition, the AIH-AHEC regional center will organize training and mentor individuals to become health care providers serving their home communities. The partners plan to adopt “personal growth” strategies to address the shortage of health professionals and reduce health disparities in Arizona’s tribal communities.
“The AIH-AHEC Regional Center will be one of the first of its kind in the United States outside of Alaska and will align well with the mission of AHEC which has been an integral part of the University and Arizona communities for nearly 40 years,” said Dan Derksen, MDAssociate Vice President of Health Equity, Outreach, and Interprofessional Activities for UArizona Health Sciences, Director of the Center for Rural Health at UArizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, and Senior Program Advisor and Principal Investigator UAHS AzAHEC.
AIC-AHEC joins five existing AHEC Regional Centers in Arizona:
- Central Arizona AHEC, housed in the Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers in Phoenix, which represents 23 community health center systems at 175 sites across the state, and serves as Arizona’s primary care association.
- Colorado Plateau Center for Health Professions, housed in North Country HealthCare in Flagstaff, with federally licensed health center sites in northern Arizona counties.
- Eastern Arizona AHEC based in Globe.
- Southern Arizona AHEC, hosted at El Rio Health with 14 FQHC sites in Pima County.
- AHEC of Western Arizona, housed at the Regional Center for Borders Health in Somerton.
In fiscal year 2022, the AzAHEC program, in collaboration with the five existing AHEC regional centers in Arizona and the nine rural health professions programs, provided 2,983 community-based experiential training placements to 1,527 students in health professions in Arizona. In fiscal year 2021, the AzAHEC program provided 10% of the total rotations provided by the 56 AHEC programs in the country.
Congress authorized the federal AHEC program in 1971. There are 56 AHEC programs and 236 regional centers in 47 states.