AHECs, or Area Health Education Centers, were established in 1972 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in response to the shortage of primary care physicians and inadequate distribution of health professionals in the country.
The purpose of the AHEC program is to enhance access to quality health care, particularly primary and preventive care, by improving the supply and distribution of healthcare professionals via strategic partnerships with academic programs, communities, and professional organizations.
To achieve this mission, AHECs are organized into program offices and regional centers. The program office coordinates and oversees AHEC’s statewide presence, whereas the regional centers implement programming tailored to their region-specific needs. Today, over 85% of United States counties are served by an AHEC program.