The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology soon will post a funding opportunity notice for $80 million in grants to support the training of health information technology professionals in about 70 community colleges across the nation.

The funds, authorized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, are intended to expand the health I.T. workforce by 50,000. Under the grant program, $70 million is dedicated for operating non-degree, six-month intensive training programs, says David Blumenthal, M.D., national coordinator. The remaining $10 million will go for development of educational materials, which Blumenthal calls "a national resource for anyone wishing to develop and conduct such programs."

Under the grant program, ONC will fund five consortia of community colleges in five regions across the nation. Federal officials expect the program to produce 10,000 graduates each year for five years. The program could include distance-learning initiatives.

Some of the funding also could go toward scholarships, says Charles Friedman, PhD, deputy national coordinator. The general principal will be for each community college to get their I.T. training program up as quickly as possible and to have latitude in developing their program. "If that includes scholarships for students, that would be possible," Friedman says.

Information about grant applications will be
available shortly at http://healthIT.HHS.gov/HITECHgrants.

--Joseph Goedert

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