The California Statewide Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Program was established in 1972 to recruit, train and retain a health professions workforce committed to underserved communities. It brings together local resources, community-based organizations and academic institutions to improve access to and quality of health care for underrepresented populations across the state. With its partners, the AHEC program also develops a population-based approach to health professions education with a special emphasis on community-based training. The CA AHEC accomplishes its mission through its network of 13 regional AHEC centers, each an independent organization strategically located in an underserved area, affiliated with health professions schools and mainly hosted by community clinic consortia. The AHEC program is funded by California state initiatives and the federal government through the Bureau of Health Workforce, under the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
All 13 CA AHEC centers are diverse in their activities, with each one responding to the specific needs of the community it serves. Each center develops training programs with academic institutions to provide experiences within community clinics, health centers, county hospitals, simulation labs and community organizations for health professions students, residents and practicing health professionals. AHEC centers work with K-12 schools, community colleges and undergraduate programs to increase the diversity of future health professions workforce through career education, job shadowing, summer camps, internships and health clubs. Some AHEC centers work with national programs to provide post-baccalaureate and post-secondary students with community health experiences. AHECs are equipped to respond rapidly to changing health priorities such as emergency preparedness, veterans’ mental health, provider burnout and health insurance exchange education and enrollment.