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Federal Grant to Help Improve Access to Health Care in Michigan

  • Synopsis: Published: 2010-10-12 - Wayne State University awarded grant to create state-wide Area Health Education Center program to improve access and quality of health care for Michigan residents - Wayne State University.

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Wayne State University has been awarded a two-year, $900,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to create a state-wide Area Health Education Center program that will improve access to and quality of health care for Michigan residents and reduce health disparities in underserved areas through community-academic partnerships for health professions training. Michigan was one of only a handful of states without an AHEC program.

The award, which requires a funding match, comes at a critical time because federal health reform is expected to provide millions more Michiganders with health coverage and increase the demand for primary care providers in a state already experiencing a severe shortage.

The Michigan Great Lakes Area Health Education Center program will work to strengthen recruitment of underrepresented and disadvantaged students to the health professions, and improve the knowledge, skills and retention of Michigan's health professional workforce. The centers will collaborate with local workforce agencies to produce a health professional workforce that meets the needs of the state.

"Given Michigan's diverse rural and urban environments, coupled with our state's growing need for primary care providers, establishment of an AHEC program is going to have a significant impact," said Valerie M. Parisi, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., dean of the WSU School of Medicine and co-principal investigator for the grant, "We will address health disparities caused by geographic, socioeconomic and racial and ethnic factors."

The Wayne State University School of Medicine and College of Nursing will share planning, implementation and management of the program's operations. Wayne State's Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, School of Social Work and the University of Detroit-Mercy School of Dentistry will provide additional leadership, support and training.

"This multidisciplinary approach to the AHEC program is uniquely suited to enhancing training in the communities where students will learn and practice, and will play a critical role in the success of the centers," said Barbara Redman, dean of the WSU College of Nursing and co-principal investigator for the grant. "We're extremely excited by the opportunity to create this program with our partners around the state and stand ready to address health professional workforce shortages across the state."

The grant funds will be used to create two regional AHEC centers. During the first year of the grant a southeast Michigan AHEC center will be established and housed at the Detroit Wayne County Health Authority. The center will serve nine urban counties (Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Lapeer, Saint Clair, Genesee, Monroe, Livingston and Washtenaw.)

During the second year of the grant, Central Michigan University will spearhead the development of an AHEC center serving mid-Michigan and serve as interim host of the center that will serve 13 rural and six urban counties (Arenac, Bay, Midland, Saginaw, Shiawassee, Clinton, Eaton, Ingham, Tuscola, Huron, Sanilac, Gratiot, Isabella, Clare, Gladwin, Osceola, Mecosta, Montcalm, and Ionia.) The long-term goal is to establish five regional AHEC centers over five years, giving access to all 83 Michigan counties.

According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, 75 of Michigan's 83 counties have at least partial designation as primary care health professional shortage areas and 45 counties are designated as mental health care professional shortage areas. Rural and urban areas often suffer greater workforce shortages because of inadequate distribution of health professionals.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research university offering more than 400 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 32,000 students.

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