HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced $130.8 million in grants to strengthen and expand the health professions workforce.

Six areas are targeted: primary care workforce training, oral health workforce training, equipment to enhance training across the health professions, loan repayments for health professionals, health careers opportunity programs for disadvantaged students, and Patient Navigator outreach and chronic disease prevention in health disparity populations. The grants include $88.7 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“An adequate health care workforce is the linchpin for reforming our health care system to ensure greater access, improve the quality of health care and cut overall costs in the long term,” said Secretary Sebelius. “Today’s awards not only will provide more training opportunities for people interested in a health professions career, but also will support equipment purchases and faculty development to expand and enhance the quality of training.”

“With an aging and increasingly diverse population, we need to prepare our health professionals to meet the challenges of providing health care in the twenty-first century,” noted Mary K. Wakefield, PhD, RN, administrator of HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which oversees the programs. “This includes ensuring diversity in the workforce, and that well-trained professionals practice in areas of severe need.”

Expanding the Primary Care Workforce

Training Programs in Primary Care – $42.1 million ($31.5 million Recovery Act)

Grants will support family medicine, general internal medicine, and general pediatrics programs, including curriculum development, faculty development, didactic and community-based education, and training in underserved areas for primary care residents, pre-doctoral students, interdisciplinary and inter-professional graduate students, and physician assistant students.

Oral Health – $23.9 million ($6.7 million Recovery Act)

Funding will target workforce development programs for pre- and post-doctoral training for dental residents; dental faculty; loan repayment for faculty who teach primary care dentistry; and training for practicing dentists, or other approved dental trainees in general, pediatric, and public health dentistry and dental hygiene programs. Funding also includes $4.3 million to States to provide 9 new grantees the opportunity to address their states’ unique oral health workforce needs in underserved urban and rural areas. Grants are designed to strengthen the delivery of multidisciplinary comprehensive oral health care, integral to quality primary care.

Equipment for State-of-the-Art Learning

Equipment to Enhance Training for Health Professionals – $50.5 million (Recovery Act)

Funding from the Recovery Act will provide 208 awards to assist with purchasing equipment for training current and future health professionals across disciplines at the undergraduate, graduate, and post- graduate education levels. Awardees include academic health centers, Area Health Education Centers, Centers of Excellence, and other educational institutions that serve underserved and uninsured patient populations, rural communities, and minorities. Equipment purchases will expand current training capabilities by replacing outdated equipment and technology or purchasing equipment that previously was unaffordable.

Types of equipment to be purchased include e-learning tools such as video, audio and interactive learning systems that provide more distance learning opportunities; human patient simulators that give students the opportunity to improve clinical judgment and critical thinking; and mobile dental vans that provide training in delivering care to diverse segments of the population while bringing basic routine dental treatments to families unable to access care. It is estimated that more than 200,000 individuals will be trained, including health professions students, faculty and clinical practice providers.

Priming the Workforce Pipeline

Loan Repayment ($8.3 million) – Twenty-nine (29) grants will be made to States that provide matching funds to assist health professionals in repaying their educational loans. In return, these individuals agree to provide full-time primary health services in Federal Health Professional Shortage Areas for a minimum of two years. Health professionals eligible to receive funding include physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, physician assistants, psychologists, and social workers.

Health Careers Opportunity Program ($2.1 million) – Three (3) grantees will receive funding to increase diversity in the health professions by developing an educational pipeline to enhance the academic performance of economically and educationally disadvantaged students, and prepare them for careers in the health professions. Eligible applicants included schools of medicine, public health, dentistry, pharmacy, allied health, and graduate programs in behavioral or mental health.

Patient Navigator ($3.8 million) – Funding will support 10 grants for Patient Navigator Outreach and Chronic Disease Prevention Programs to develop and operate patient navigator services that improve health care outcomes for individuals with cancer or other chronic diseases, with specific emphasis on health disparity populations. Grant recipients recruit, train, and employ patient navigators with direct knowledge of the communities they serve to coordinate care for patients with chronic illnesses. Eligible applicants include federally qualified health centers, health facilities operated through Indian Health Service contracts, hospitals, rural health clinics, and academic health centers.

Grant award tables by state are available [removed]online[/removed].

Source: HHS