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New Workforce Training Legislation Highlights Programs Essential to Care We Need as We Age

Ann Longterm Care. 2019;27(6):e1.

The American Geriatrics Society (AGS)

The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) last month offered a ringing endorsement of the Educating Medical Professionals and Optimizing Workforce Efficiency and Readiness (EMPOWER) for Health Act of 2019 (HR 2781), a proposal in the US House of Representatives to ensure communities across the United States have access to health professionals and other critical supports improving care for us all as we age.

Introduced by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Michael Burgess (R-TX), a physician, the bill reauthorizes the workforce training programs under Title VII of the Public Health Service Act, including the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) and the Geriatrics Academic Career Awards (GACAs). The bill draws on considerable insights from the Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA), a collaborative comprised of more than 30 member organizations co-convened by the AGS and now reflecting the diverse expertise of millions of professionals who support health in aging for older Americans.

“The future we’re working for at the AGS—a future where all older Americans have access to high-quality, person-centered care—begins by building the workforce to make that possible, and by ensuring that that workforce can connect us to the tools and supports we need as we age,” noted AGS Chief Executive Officer Nancy E Lundebjerg, MPA. “We commend Congresswoman Schakowsky and Congressman Burgess for working with us and our partners to make that future a reality with the EMPOWER for Health Act. By standing behind this legislation, we’re committed to a future when all Americans can look forward to affordable, high-quality, and person-centered care.”

The EMPOWER Act advances two critical programs—the GWEPs and the GACAs—specific to geriatrics, older adults, and millions of caregivers across America. The GWEPs educate and engage the broader frontline workforce—including family caregivers—and focus on opportunities to improve the quality of care delivered to older adults, particularly in underserved and rural areas.

The GACA program is an essential complement to the GWEP. GACAs ensure we can equip early career clinician-educators to become leaders in geriatrics education and research. This important legislation will authorize funding of $51 million annually through 2024, allowing current and future awardees to:

Educate and engage with family caregivers by training providers who can assess and address their care needs and preferences.

Promote interprofessional team-based care by transforming clinical training environments to integrate geriatrics and primary care delivery systems.

Improve the quality of care delivered to older adults by providing education to families and caregivers on critical care challenges such as Alzheimer disease and related dementias.

Support clinician-educators engaged in geriatrics education and research to develop the next generation of innovators to improve care outcomes and care delivery.

The introduction of this important legislation follows recent announcements by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) regarding funding for a new round of GWEP and GACA grants. Authorization of these programs as outlined in the EMPOWER for Health Act will help ensure HRSA receives the funding necessary to carry these critically important geriatrics workforce training programs forward.

“At a time when our nation is facing a severe shortage of both geriatrics health care providers and faculty with the expertise to train these providers, the number of educational and training opportunities in geriatrics and gerontology must be expanded, not reduced,” Ms Lundebjerg said. 

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