Caring for a growing older adult population requires a comprehensive approach from both the medical and public health communities. This includes providing education, support, and services that, much like a bridge, span not only the distance between the clinical and community settings, but connect them as well. This bridge is built by educating and training individuals from a variety of fields, as well as by providing support and education for informal caregivers, such as family and friends, who are often relied on to provide care in the home – the preferred care setting for most older adults.
Working towards this end, The University of Iowa is one of 48 organizations nationwide to receive funding from the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP). The GWEP is sponsored by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The overall purpose of the GWEP is to develop a health care workforce that maximizes patient and family engagement and to improve health outcomes for older adults by integrating geriatrics with primary care, providing that essential clinical-community bridge.
Our project, the Iowa Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (Iowa-GWEP), is coordinated by the Iowa Geriatric Education Center in collaboration with the Csomay Center for Gerontological Excellence. It embraces and implements the GWEP mission through five objectives: 1) Build partnerships to educate and train a workforce: academia, primary care sites/systems, and community-based organizations; 2) Train current and future providers to assess and address the primary care needs of older adults; 3) Transform clinical training environments to become Age-Friendly Health Systems; 4) Deliver community-based programs that provide patients, families, caregivers, and direct care workers with the knowledge and skills to improve health outcomes for older adults; and 5) Provide Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (ADRD) education and training for those who provide care for older adults with dementia.
The Iowa-GWEP focuses on the 4Ms of Age-Friendly Health Systems – What Matters, Mentation, Mobility, and Medication – as well as on the practices of Dementia Friendly Communities. In the spirit of the GWEP, we are working directly with community-based primary care sites so learning can effectively take place at the point of care, as well as partnering with families and patients to increase their involvement in care and improve health outcomes.
The Iowa-GWEP is led by Principal Investigator Marianne Smith, PhD, RN, FAAN. Dr. Smith is an associate professor with the University of Iowa College of Nursing, where she is also the Director of the Csomay Center.
To learn more about the GWEP, visit the HRSA website: https://bhw.hrsa.gov/grants/geriatrics.