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One in five North Carolinians, almost 2.2 million people, live in rural counties. Compared to towns and cities, those living in these rural areas face a number of unique health barriers that limit them from getting access to the care they need. Shortages of doctors, dentists, and specialists in these areas, combined with the limited or lack of health insurance coverage of many rural residents leads to higher rates of chronic diseases and mortality.
At the same time, North Carolina’s rural communities are full of natural, social, economic, cultural, and human capital used as the building blocks to prosperity. The new rural economy is more interconnected, built upon our global economy, and more tied into regional opportunity.
Development of Rural Forward NC
In an effort to improve the health and overall quality of life for people in rural NC, the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust launched it’s signature program, Healthy Places North Carolina in 2012. The Trust is investing up to $100 million to improve the health of residents in the state’s most rural and financially disadvantaged counties. In order to support participating counties, the Trust partnered with the Foundation for Health Leadership and Innovation in 2014 to launch Rural Forward NC.
As a regional support organization for Healthy Places NC, Rural Forward NC is designed to respond to the needs of a community by listening to its people, cooperating with local change-makers, and working with residents to find ways to build on community successes and tackle entrenched challenges.
Rural Forward NC Today
With an overall goal of improving the major health indicators in NC counties over the next ten years, Rural Forward NC carries out its mission to build capacity and develop resources that amplify the impact of rural leaders, organizations, and coalitions currently in Halifax, Rockingham, Edgecombe, Nash, and Beaufort Counties.
Rural Forward NC also works in coordination with an assembly of statewide agency partners to identify:
- Promising local leaders and their efforts to improve the health of rural communities, directly or indirectly;
- The assets of those efforts and the relevant barriers to success
- Sustainable goals and achievable action plans.
- Measureable outcomes and benchmarks for success.
By the end of this initiative, Rural Forward NC envisions healthier, more sustainable rural communities with increased capacity to solve their own health problems.
Western NC Expansion
In January 2018, Rural Forward NC (RFNC) will be taking on the regional support duties for all Healthy Places NC counties, including those in western NC. Rural Support Partners (RSP)- which currently provides support to McDowell and Burke Counties- will be stepping out of its role at the end of the year to re-focus on its core work of advancing the new economy in Central Appalachia. After careful consideration the organization determined that managing both its region-wide economic development work and the local Healthy Places NC work was no longer sustainable for an organization of its size.
The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust currently works with RFNC to support five Healthy Places Communities in the eastern and central parts of the state and “believes RFNC is uniquely positioned to step in and provide support to its communities in the west.” The Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation strongly supports the expansion of RFNC and agrees this effort will collectively move the Foundation and RFNC forward in realizing a vision of healthy communities where all people flourish.
Over the next several months, Rural Support Partners and Rural Forward NC will work closely to ensure a smooth transition in McDowell and Burke Counties. RFNC will meet with individuals and organizations in both counties to get to know their people and organizations, explore their community support needs and determine how RFNC can best partner in the local work.
Click here for more information on Healthy Places NC on the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust website.
RFNC provides the following services:
- Grants Development
- Policy Development
- Resource Management
- Relationship Brokering
- Strategic Planning
- Conflict Management
- Identification of Expertise
- Program Planning