Introducing the NC Rural Health Leadership Alliance
The NCFAHP is excited to announce the formation of the North Carolina Rural Health Leadership Alliance (NCRHLA). The Alliance is comprised of nonprofit and government leaders working in health and rural development. These rural health leaders have been meeting informally for 25 years. The original team included the following organizations and people: NC Office of Rural Health (Jim Bernstein), NC Medical Society Foundation (Harvey Estes) and NC Area Health Education Centers (Gene Mayer). They met at least monthly to discuss how they could partner regarding the rural health needs of North Carolina. Since 2014, the NCRHLA has grown and aligned itself to do the work as recommended by the North Carolina Institution of Medicine’s Rural Health Task Force.
The present-day Alliance is now becoming an official organization with technical assistance and grants from the National Rural Health Association. The NCFAHP will serve as the administrative home for the Alliance. The health and flourishing of rural communities is of prime importance, as one-in-five North Carolinians reside in a rural area. Rural communities struggle with the challenges of economic depression, lack of health-care access, and substance-use risks. Despite these challenges, rural communities are resilient and grounded in a sense of place. The Alliance intends to find solutions to rural challenges by harnessing the strengths of these communities and mobilizing existing rural organizations and leaders. The purpose of the Alliance is to act as a base for collaboration and partnership. The structure and size of the Alliance will continue to be flexible, and will be guided by the work of the group. For now, the Alliance has structured itself into six work groups based on the goals outlined by the “North Carolina Rural Health Action Plan”;
- Invest in small businesses and entrepreneurship to grow local and regional industries.
- Increase support for quality child care and education (birth through age 8) and parenting support to improve school readiness.
- Work within the formal and informal education system to support healthy eating and active living.
- Use primary care and public health settings to screen for and treat people with mental health and substance-abuse issues in the context of increasingly integrated primary and behavioral health care.
- Educate and engage people in rural communities about new and emerging health insurance options available under the Affordable Care Act and existing safety net resources.
- Ensure adequate incentives and other support to cultivate, recruit, and retain health professionals to rural and underserved areas of the state.
Each of these work groups is made up of members who work in related fields and can lend their expertise and resources. The work groups meet between quarterly meetings of the collective Alliance to facilitate progress in their designated work areas and to develop communication materials regarding the needs and the efforts in the work area.