NCRHP Receives Funding and Expands IL AHEC Network Program

The National Center for Rural Health Professions received additional grant funding totaling nearly $6.9 million through a competitive grant award from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration for the continuation of the Illinois Area Health Education Center Network Program (IL AHEC Network Program) through 2022.

Established in 2010, the IL AHEC Network Program has eight regional centers throughout the state to serve both rural and urban underserved residents through access to health professions education, health careers development and community and public health promotion activities. The grant funding allows for the continuation and expansion of these programs, according to Hana Hinkle, PhD, associate director of the National Center for Rural Health Professions and the IL AHEC Network Program.

Serving the Entire State of Illinois

The Illinois AHEC Network has a main program office in Rockford; a satellite program office in Chicago that is part of the University of Illinois College of Medicine Chicago and the UIC School of Public Health; and eight health education centers around the state that develop and offer innovative and long-term solutions to health and workforce disparities. These are AHEC of Northwest Illinois in Polo, South Central Illinois AHEC in Mt. Vernon, South East Illinois AHEC in Fairfield, Chicago Area Health Education Center in Chicago, West Central Illinois AHEC in Carthage, Central Illinois AHEC in Normal, East Central Illinois AHEC in Gibson City and Chicago South AHEC in Chicago. A ninth regional AHEC center serving the suburban collar counties around Chicago was recently established.

The renewed funding will allow expanded and enhanced education and training within the state’s communities, academic institutions and community-based organizations to increase the diversity and distribution of health professionals, promote healthcare quality and improve healthcare delivery to rural and underserved areas through the state.  The new Illinois AHEC Scholars Program, a competitive two-year cohort program that expands on traditional health professions and student education and training, was launched this year.

Through previous network efforts, more than 60,000 participants have been a part of Illinois AHEC-supported programs. The Illinois AHEC Network Program is part of the National AHEC Organization developed by Congress in 1971 to recruit, train and retain a health professions workforce committed to underserved populations.