U.S. Dept. of Health Awards FGCU Gerontology Education Grant
FORT MYERS, FL - Florida Gulf Coast University recently received a three-year grant “Interdisciplinary Gerontology Education for Underserved Areas” from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Bureau of Health Professions to increase the number of qualified allied health providers serving the elderly in underserved areas of Southwest Florida and to provide accessible education and training to increase the number of students entering allied health professions.
The grant runs through June 30, 2004 and the first year’s award is valued at about $90,000.
Associate professor of Health Sciences Halcyon St. Hill is the grant’s project director. “The purpose of the grant is to create and implement a model that partners FGCU with the community,” she said. “The model is an undergraduate education training program that will prepare students with the skills necessary to provide quality care for the elderly and address the need for such training and education in underserved elderly environments.”
Specifically, the project will develop a 15-18 credit hour gerontology concentration for undergraduates in the Bachelor of Science in health science degree program. The concentration will span various fields of learning to better prepare allied health professionals for the wide range of disciplines included in the practice of gerontology. FGCU will deliver the concentration via traditional on-campus courses and through distance learning. The curriculum content will be devised from data gathered in regional surveys and focus groups, and reviewed by an interdisciplinary council.
Another aspect of the project will develop a student internship with practice experiences offered at community-partnered sites in a medically underserved community. The internship will provide practical expertise, integrate intergenerational service learning as a community-partnered endeavor in underserved areas and integrate a mentoring component to involve K-12 students in learning experiences to care for the elderly. The project will also inform K-12 students about allied health professions.
St. Hill hopes the curriculum and courses developed through the grant will serve as a model for other colleges and universities that offer similar gerontology programs. The goal is to disseminate the program of study through such channels as the Internet, presentations and publications to help meet a growing national need. The goal is not off the mark. According to the 2000 census, the elderly population in America will probably increase by more than twofold to 80 million by 2050.
Southwest Florida is already above the national average of 18.1 percent of 65-year-olds in the region. The percentage is 33.8 percent in Charlotte County, 25.6 percent in Lee and Collier counties, and 19.4 percent in Glades County, according to FGCU School of Nursing’s feasibility survey.
Twenty-five percent of the population in FGCU’s service area resides in rural areas, the survey shows. Glades County is considered completely rural and Hendry County is particularly underserved with regard to qualified health professionals to provide services and care to older adults. In addition, 23 percent of Hendry County and 18 percent of Glades County residents are below poverty level.
“This proposal addresses the National Workforce goals to improve access to quality care through an appropriately prepared health care workforce and access to a diverse and culturally competent health professions workforce,” St. Hill said. “It also addresses the major goals of Healthy People 2010.”
Other faculty collaborating on the interdisciplinary project include: associate professor and director of the Center for Positive Aging, Linda Buettner; professor in the School of Nursing, Peg Gray-Vickrey; academic coordinator of clinical education in physical therapy, Lynda Jack; and assistant professor of occupational therapy, Doug Morris.
For more information, contact St. Hill at (941) 590-7496.