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National program to promote rural health care access is expanding in Minnesota

The Area Health Education Center (AHEC) network is expanding to central Minnesota. In December, officials with the University’s Academic Health Center selected Fergus Falls as the host community for a new regional AHEC, the third one established in the state since 2002.

AHEC is national program that began in 1970 to improve the accessibility and quality of primary health care. Today there are regional AHECs in 45 states. In Minnesota, AHEC is a series of partnerships between the University and communities to identify and address the needs of our state’s medically underserved residents and to increase the number of health care professionals practicing in greater Minnesota.

Minnesota currently has regional AHECs in northeast and southern Minnesota. The new Central Minnesota AHEC based in Fergus Falls will serve a 13-county area. Plans are in place to establish a fourth regional AHEC in northwest Minnesota by the fall of 2006.

Each regional AHEC is led by an executive director and managed by a community-based board of directors that includes community leaders, rural health care practitioners, educators, economic development specialists, and others committed to rural health care.

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