UNT Health Science Center and its community partners are expanding their efforts to improve health care for older adults with the support of a $3.75-million federal grant.
The Health Resources and Services Administration funding will address the growing needs of older adults through UNTHSC’s geriatric training program, Workforce Enhancement in Healthy Aging and Independent Living or WE HAIL. UNTHSC was one of 48 grantees awarded for a five-year period, 2019-2024.
The funding makes it possible for WE HAIL to build on its initial efforts that started four years ago, said Dr. Janice Knebl, DO, MBA, chief of Geriatrics Section and Dallas Southwest Osteopathic Physicians endowed chair in Geriatrics.
“This is truly a transformative opportunity to improve education and training for health care professionals and to help create age-friendly health care programs for older Texans,” she said. “We are so very appreciative to our partners for collaborating on this funding opportunity and to have expanded our reach to include additional partners within Texas and across the USA.”
WE HAIL was established in 2015 when UNTHSC collaborated with JPS Health Network, Texas Christian University and the United Way’s Area Agency on Aging of Tarrant County to provide geriatric training and education.
Almost 12 percent of Texans – 3.2 million people – are 65 and older, and the number is growing. Tarrant County’s population of adults 65 and older is expected to triple and make up nearly 20 percent of the population by 2050.
WE HAIL offers training opportunities to prepare health care professionals to treat geriatric patients and meet their unique and often complex needs, said Jennifer Jurado Severance, PhD, Program Administrative director for WE HAIL.
WE HAIL works with health professional schools and training programs, community partners, and health care organizations to equip the primary care workforce with the knowledge and skills to care for older adults. New projects with the UNTHSC Correctional Medicine Department and Office of Rural Medical Education expand training to correctional facilities and rural areas experiencing challenging issues of aging populations.
“Our focus is on underserved populations, particularly in rural and urban areas,” Dr. Severance said. “Through this continued support, we are able to move forward with additional partners to expand to areas around and beyond Texas.”
Recently the partnership was expanded to include MedStar and the North Central Texas Council of Governments. Other partners include Alzheimer’s Association of North Central Texas, Meals on Wheels of Tarrant County, Sixty and Better, Texas Health Resources NICHE Program, Texas Osteopathic Medical Association, Texas Hospital Association, University of the Incarnate Word School of Osteopathic Medicine, and Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine in New Mexico.
Earlier this year, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission presented WE HAIL with its Innovators in Aging award. This was the first time the award, which honors programs that have a positive impact on older Texans, was presented.