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(Republished from the UNC Health Care and UNC School of Medicine Newsroom.)

Dr. Jan Busby-Whitehead
Dr. Jan Busby-Whitehead

The UNC Center for Aging and Health has received a five-year, $3.75 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to provide geriatrics training throughout North Carolina. This comprehensive award partners the Center for Aging and Health with community-based organizations and health care systems to create an age-friendly environment for health care.

HRSA funds the Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) among 48 sites throughout the nation. UNC’s Carolina Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program (CGWEP) currently leads the statewide effort to bring best practices of geriatrics training to diverse primary care practices and medically underserved communities.

The CGWEP’s work to improve health outcomes for NC’s older adults began with a 2015 grant from HRSA. This latest award will continue to integrate geriatrics throughout the health care workforce and implement training to improve dementia care, increase rates of advance care planning, target chronic opioid use, and lower both falls rates and rates of uncontrolled diabetes.

Donna Roberson, PhD (Credit: Conley Evans, East Carolina University College of Nursing)

“Our program takes a comprehensive, community-based approach because no single system can address the needs of the whole person,” said Jan Busby-Whitehead, MD, director of the Center for Aging and Health, CGWEP program director and chief of geriatric medicine in the department of medicine.

A major focus of the CGWEP is Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. East Carolina University’s College of Nursing leads the program’s effort to provide dementia screening, caregiver education, and support to older adults in collaboration with the NC Area Health Education Centers.

“The greatest burden of caring for a person living with dementia falls to family caregivers who often lack education and training to manage the complexities associated with dementia care,” said Donna Roberson, PhD, associate professor at the ECU College of Nursing and project director of  CGWEP at ECU. “We have the necessary partnerships with rural communities to make tremendous strides toward improving care of aging adults and their caregivers dealing with dementia.”

Other key CGWEP partners include UNC Health Care, UNC-CH provost office, all health sciences schools, NC Division of Aging and Adult Services, Piedmont Health Services, the NC Alzheimer’s Association, and four federally qualified health centers.