1. What Is An AHEC?
Area Health Education Centers (AHECs) were begun by the federal government in the late 1970's as programs designed to address health manpower distribution through community based initiatives.
AHECs are administered by a school of medicine, which is the program office, and subcontracts with remote centers from the medical school. Each center must be a 501(c)3 entity, governed by a Board of Directors representing the region surrounding the center. A program office may receive a maximum of twelve years of federal seed funding while the centers are eligible for six years of funding. The program office administers a multidisciplinary academic consortium that includes one or more nursing schools and schools of other health professions, such as allied health and social work.
The federal government, through competitive grants, makes seed monies available to establish AHEC programs and centers. The intent is to provide sufficient dollars to build the infrastructure and to build a case for state support assuming the activities and accomplishments are of value to the communities served by the AHEC.
Communities are the heart of AHEC. The centers are governed by a community Board of Directors who live in and represent the region served. These community boards identify the needs and priorities for health care professionals in their region within the scope of the broad AHEC objectives. The AHEC employees live in the center's region and are employees of the Board of Directors rather than of the academic partner. A minimum of 75% of all federal dollars awarded must be subcontracted directly to the centers, with the remaining financial oversight and to develop institutional support and linkages needed by the committee.
There are six centers in our state. The Atlanta AHEC or Southeastern Primary Care Consortium AHEC (SPCC-AHEC) covers DeKalb, Fulton and Clayton counties. Magnolia Coastlands AHEC was begun in 1987 and serves 39 counties in central and southeast Georgia.
The Southwest Georgia (SOWEGA) AHEC was established in 1990 and serves 38 counties. The Three Rivers AHEC, established in 1994, serves 28 counties in west central Georgia.
The Blue Ridge AHEC in northwest Georgia serves 20 counties. Foothills AHEC, established in 1999, serves 31 counties in northeast Georgia.