United Health Foundation announced Tuesday it will begin a $1.6 million, three-year partnership with UNC to launch a new health care technology workforce training and education program through the Carolina Health Informatics Program.
UnitedHealth Group created the non-profit United Health Foundation to improve the health care system and the health of people, said CEO Dave Wichmann, who attended the event along with UNC Chancellor Carol Folt and Gov. Roy Cooper.
Project ENABLE, the new program, will seek to expand access to health care data and informatics education through online and in-class training. It will focus on minority undergraduate students considering professions in the health care field.
Folt said this focus is necessary because African-American and Latinx students make up about 40 percent of the population but only 5 percent of the health care workforce.
“We need to make sure we are bringing everyone in,” she said.
Cooper said he saw the need for a training program such as Project ENABLE when his parents were sick, and they had to visit multiple doctors. Different doctors would run the same tests because they had no way of seeing previous results, a problem that could be alleviated with comprehensive information systems.
He said UNC is a great place for this program.
“This University makes a real difference,” he said.
The grant supports three different programs within Project ENABLE: in-person summer boot camps for students from local HBCUs, new course content for online health informatics programs and a new online master’s degree to help professionals gain expertise with health informatics.
Wichmann said the partnership was only possible because of the atmosphere created at UNC by Folt.
“UNC deploys an interdisciplinary approach to health informatics, research and training which affords students distinctive opportunities,” he said.
He called UNC a trailblazer in higher education and said North Carolina is laying the foundation for the health care workforce of the 21st century.
United Health Foundation and the informatics program partnered in response to the country’s growing need for health informatics experts as technology becomes increasingly important to health care professions.
“You can have all the information in the world, but if you don’t know what to do with it, it doesn’t really take you anywhere,” Folt said.
She said it is estimated that one million more STEM professionals will need to be trained by 2025, making the partnership even more valuable.
Cooper used this announcement as a way to promote improving public education throughout the state. He wants to make North Carolina a top 10 educated state by 2025.
“Public education is in our DNA, so we must continue to fund it from top to bottom,” Cooper said.
All of the speakers at the announcement said Project ENABLE can make a real difference in the lives of people by making health care informatics more efficient and improving health care in the state and country.
“Our University is committed to tackling tough problems and training the next generation of diverse leaders,” Folt said.
“We are grateful for United Health Foundation’s support and partnership to expand educational and training resources in the health care technology and analytics field.”
Anna Pogarcic is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel. She is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill studying journalism and history major.
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