The University of Arizona Center on Aging is among 44 organizations in 29 states that will receive a three-year grant as part of a new Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) announced by Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell during the recent White House Conference on Aging. As part of the $35.7 million in GWEP funding awarded during the July 13 event, the UA Center on Aging will get $2.5 million.
The GWEP’s purpose is to ensure access to high-quality care for older adults at individual, community and population levels by better preparing the health-care workforce to respond to needs associated with advancing age.
“Today’s grants reaffirm our commitment to invest in a workforce that will ensure high-quality care for older adults. These investments will promote access to quality health care for older adults by supporting their self-management, their families’ engagement in their care and the dedicated caregivers who work with them,” Burwell said.
The Arizona GWEP aims to improve the quality of health care for Arizona’s older adults by integrating geriatrics with primary care, maximizing patient and family engagement and transforming the health care system. It is strengthened by strong local, regional and statewide partners that include Banner Health, Arizona State University’s College of Nursing & Health Innovation and School of Social Work, the Indian Health Service, Southern Arizona VA Health Care System, Alzheimer’s Association – Desert Southwest Chapter, Arizona Community Health Worker Outreach Network, Arizona’s Area Agencies on Aging and many others.
“This remarkable collaboration expands the program’s impact across our geographically large and medically underserved state,” said Mindy J. Fain, MD, Arizona Center on Aging co-director and grant co-principal investigator with M. Jane Mohler, NP-C, MPH, PhD. “Our goal is to develop a capable, diverse and culturally competent health-care workforce and contribute to creating a health-care system based on delivering value for our aging population.”
Dr. Fain, a professor of medicine and division chief for Geriatrics, General Internal Medicine and Palliative Medicine at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson, said she and Dr. Mohler are eager to work with their longtime statewide partners to provide the best possible care for older adults through interprofessional education and training and high-value care delivery innovations.
The Arizona GWEP will focus on issues important to all older adults and their families, including fall prevention, advancing chronic disease and Alzheimer’s disease – with special attention to patient and family communication, and community connections. The program provides comprehensive geriatric education and training for interprofessional health providers and students, including nurses, physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists and social workers.
In addition, the Arizona GWEP is unique in that it expands its reach to include community health workers, direct care workers, certified nursing assistants and family caregivers. The Arizona GWEP will improve the care of older adults in multiple health settings, including clinics, hospitals, assisted living, skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation, and home and community sites.
Lisa O'Neill, MPH, the Arizona Center on Aging’s director of education, will serve as Arizona GWEP project manager. “We are particularly excited about the opportunity to provide geriatric training for paraprofessionals, such as direct care workers, community health workers and caregivers, for the care they provide is critically important to the health and well-being of older adults,” O’Neill said.
There is a great need for this project, she added, because Arizona’s population is rapidly growing, with growth especially pronounced among older ethnic minority groups and those living in rural and underserved areas. The Arizona GWEP, representing a statewide partnership, is well-positioned to improve the health and well-being of Arizona’s seniors.