The mission of the Tennessee AHEC Program is to improve the supply and distribution of healthcare professionals with an emphasis on primary care – in urban and rural areas.
The Area Health Education Centers (AHECs) programs were developed in the 1970s by Congress in response to the Carnegie Report on Higher Education and the Nation’s Health to recruit, train and retrain a health professions workforce committed to serving underserved populations. Today, there are 56 AHEC programs with more than 235 regional centers that operate in almost every state and the District of Columbia. Today, approximately 120 medical schools and 600 nursing and allied health schools collaborate with AHECs to improve health for underserved populations.
AHECs can be described as a pipeline for healthcare training. We connect with youth at any early age to educate them on health career opportunities. Next, we connect health professionals to communities, and then we connect communities to better health; thereby increasing the quality and availability of healthcare throughout the nation.
History & Mission
The Tennessee Model Area Health Education Center (TN AHEC) Program was established at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee in 1984 through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The mission of the TN AHEC is closely aligned with the mission of Meharry and of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA’s) Bureau of Health Workforce, which is to increase diversity and distribution of healthcare professionals, enhance healthcare equity, and improve healthcare delivery to rural and underserved areas and populations.
TN AHEC’s vision is to help lead the transformation of healthcare education and service delivery in Tennessee.
The overarching goal of TN AHEC is to increase the number of students in health professions who will pursue careers in primary care and who are prepared for and practice in rural and underserved areas and with diverse populations. We are committed to improving health and health care of Tennesseans and decreasing health disparities throughout the state.
The goals and objectives of TN are carried out in partnership with its three regional centers: West TN AHEC, Central TN AHEC, and East TN AHEC. These partnerships promote an inter-professional approach to health professions education and workforce development in the regions.
The Statewide TN AHEC Program provides the foundation for a coordinated statewide response to the six major challenges expected to affect the health care system over the next decade:
- Decreasing supply of primary care providers;
- Increasing demand for primary care physicians;
- Changing population demographics (increased number of elderly persons);
- Diversity/cultural competency in the workforce;
- Transformation of the health care delivery system, and
- Greater integration of advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants.
The following principles guide the goals, objectives and activities of the TN AHEC.
- Provide links between academic health centers, health professionals, community-based organizations, and consumers for the benefit of underserved and rural populations;
- Identify local health needs and responses through community input and participation;
- Promote health and prevent disease through culturally appropriate interventions;
- Increase the number of underrepresented, low income and racial/ethnic minorities entering into health professions programs; and
- Implement inter-disciplinary, continuing education and training for health professionals.