Addressing health disparities in Massachusetts is the top priority of the MassAHEC Network, a statewide system that is part of Center for Health Policy and Research and part of a national network of Area Health Education Centers. To achieve this, the MassAHEC Network provides learning opportunities for more than 6,000 youth, students, and health care professionals each year, focusing on ensuring the following:
- Culturally competent and skilled health care workers
- Greater access to quality health care for all Massachusetts residents
- Increased diversity in the health care workforce and the population it serves
In addition to the program’s administrative headquarters at the Center for Health Policy and Research, there are six regional AHEC offices. Local advisory boards provide guidance and input and assure responsiveness to local health care workforce needs.
Supporting the primary care workforce
We offer continuing education programs — and can approve and provide continuing education units (CEUs) — for physicians, nurses, mental health professionals, and others. Programs are designed to advance participants’ skills and knowledge, so they can keep pace with the changes in health care practice.
Increasing the health care workforce in underserved communities
Health professions students can gain experience in fields such as rural health care, minority urban clinics, correctional health, elder care, and other underserved areas by participating in our training programs.
Medical interpreter and community health worker training
Our medical interpreter training program collaborates with the AHEC Network to offer interpreter training throughout Massachusetts and in other states. As the only organization providing medical interpreter training through all of Massachusetts, we focus training on the state’s Medicaid (MassHealth) providers and community-based organizations. Our course prepares medical interpreters for national certification.
Community health workers (CHWs) are essential for improving health care — and access to health care — particularly for minority populations. The Central Massachusetts AHEC’s Outreach Worker Training Institute prepares professional CHWs by offering certificate programs tailored to the needs of the health and social service agencies.
Diversifying the workforce
To ensure that the diversity of the community is reflected in the health care workforce, we have developed programs to recruit youth and adults to health care professions. MassAHEC offers academic year and summer health career exploration and academic enrichment programs. Working closely with the UMass Baccalaureate MD Pathway Program, our MassAHEC HOSA (Health Occupations of America) team helps area schools develop their own HOSA chapters. These groups expose students, teachers, parents, and administrators to information about the career options available in health care.
Outreach and Enrollment
To achieve the current insurance rate of 98.5% of all Massachusetts’ residents, and to ensure a smooth transition to the requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act, the Mass Health Care Training Forum (MTF ) reaches 5,000 outreach and enrollment workers with timely information on insurance coverage and enrollment processes. As a partnership with MassHealth, MTF provides accurate and timely information and training through quarterly regional meetings, webinars, conference calls and a listserv. This expertise is shared with the grantees of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts’ Connecting Consumers with Care program help consumers enroll in and maintain access to coverage, collaborate with advocacy organizations to address system-level barriers, and educate and equip consumers to utilize the health care system more effectively and appropriately.
Direct Care Workers
As our health care delivery and insurance systems shifts the focus community based services and cares for an increasing older and chronically ill population, direct care workers in the home require new knowledge and skills. The "ABCs for Direct Care Workers," a 13-module curriculum developed in collaboration with the Massachusetts Executive Offices of Health and Human Services and Elder Affairs, provided this opportunity for more than 600 workers during a federal grant program. Now, the Personal and Home Care Aide State Training project is expanding statewide, integrating this curriculum into community college and workforce development systems. The training program offers a unique health career entry point for Haitian Creole, Portuguese and Spanish speakers who can take the "ABCs for Direct Care Workers" in their native language.