Shoneca Kent has been the Twin Counties Catalyst Coordinator with the Catalyst for Healthy Eating and Active Living, a program of the Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation, since 2015. Catalyst coordinators work with communities to address key risk factors for chronic disease and accelerate change to make healthy living easier. In vein with her efforts to improve nutrition and physical activity in the Twin Counties, Shoneca was part of a working group to plan the Twin Counties Partnership for Healthier Communities Health Summit that was held this past June.
The city of Rocky Mount lies in both Edgecombe County and Nash County—the Twin Counties. It also has the largest population of any municipality in both counties, proposing a unique dilemma in that its needs cannot be captured by either county’s health assessment alone. Hence the need for an assessment that identified the Twin Counties’ needs. However, both counties as a whole stand to benefit from such an assessment, not just Rocky Mount. With shared political and social climates, workforces, and economic landscapes, a collective identification of needs and development of programs to address them, is a valuable addition. The Twin Counties face similar health problems—high adult obesity rates (41% and 32% in Nash and Edgecombe, respectively) and high patient to a low number of physicians ratios, to name a couple. In a 2017, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings of NC’s counties, Nash County was listed as 66 out of NC’s 100 counties, and Edgecombe was lower at 98.
“It is a benefit to have information specific to Nash and Edgecombe Counties…however, both counties have some of the same challenges and will benefit from opportunities together.” -Shoneca Kent
A testament to this effort, the Twin Counties Partnership for Healthier Communities, in collaboration with the N.C. Institute of Public Health, received a grant through the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust to collect, analyze, and address local health issues. The survey collected responses from over 300 residents who responded to health-related questions and needs.
A key component of this initiative included an effort to share the data collected more broadly at the local level. In response, a Summit was held shortly after data collection as an opportunity to incorporate participant ideas and feedback into a three-year work-plan to address local health issues. In addition to informing elected officials and organizational leaders of survey results, the Summit created a neutral forum for residents to discusses key community issues. These included crime and safety, access to healthcare, opportunities for youth, physical activity, and resources for people with mental health and substance abuse disorders.
One important barrier to use of resources is simply not being aware of their existence. In this sense, the Summit functioned as a source of information dispersal. Residents in attendance had the opportunity to hear from the local YMCA, identify parks and walking tracks in their neighborhoods, and to discuss recruiting strategies to bring more general practitioners of medicine to the area. Additionally, the Healthier Communities’ 3Cs (Communications, Collaboration, and Community Engagement) workgroup is hosting a webinar series for interested agencies and community members to distribute data for their specific interests.
Shoneca reflects that the Summit was symbolic of the function of Catalysts in communities across the state.
“We meet with partners who discuss the challenges they face in their work and the community. Then we work with those partners to create and/or expand on unique opportunities to address those challenges. That was what the Summit was all about. The Twin Counties Partnership for Healthier Communities presented data and survey results to the residents, and then we had the opportunity to discuss and work together to develop solutions to those challenges.”
We can see the Summit as a representation of progress and community involvement in developing and shaping health goals– a place to digest information, collaborate, and use CHNA data in a way that goes well beyond numbers on a page. It allowed for the creation of a physical space to freely voice opinions, and, perhaps most importantly, to spread information—a translation that sometimes gets lost in the cracks.
The Catalyst for Healthy Eating and Active Living is a program of the Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation. Catalyst for Healthy Eating and Active Living works with communities to address key risk factors for chronic disease and accelerates change to make healthy living easier. For more information, please visit https://foundationhli.org/programs/catalyst-healthy-eating-active-living/.