National AHEC Organization (NAO)
The Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) program was developed by Congress in 1971 as a national strategy to address the shortage of primary care physicians and the misdistribution of health professionals. Imbalances in our healthcare system result in marked inequities in access to and quality of healthcare services. This perpetuates disparities in health status and the under-representation of minority and disadvantaged individuals in the healthcare workforce. AHEC programs play a key role in correcting these inequities and strengthening the nation's health care safety net.
Area Health Education Centers work to improve the supply, distribution, retention, quality, utilization, and efficiency of a health care workforce committed to underserved populations. They help 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.
Today, 56 AHEC programs with more than 235 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 Pennsylvania AHEC program was established by the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine in 1994 and has seven regional members including the Eastcentral Area Health Education Center and the Northeast Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center, which are both an independent 501(c) 3 organization.