NCRHLA Hosts Reception and Summit on Economic Vitality and Public Health

On October 19th and 20th more than 40 people from across North Carolina gathered at the NC State University McKimmon Center for the NC Rural Health Leadership Alliance’s (NCRHLA) inaugural events. The gathering kicked off on the 19th with an open reception that welcomed guests to learn more about the NCRHLA and connect new partners to its current members. The NCRHLA is a coordinated network of leaders and practitioners aimed at improving the health of rural North Carolinians through education and strategic partnerships. Their work is currently focused on achieving the recommendations of the NC Rural Health Action Plan.

thumbnail_20161020_091956bOn October 20th, a select group of participants from local, regional and state organizations supporting public health and economic development attended the Discovery & Practice Summit: Connections for Community Health and Economic Vitality. The goal of the Summit was to move North Carolina forward in improving economic and community health and wellbeing through collaboration. The Summit was organized on the premise that collaboration across sectors is essential for healthy, vibrant communities. The day was devoted to exploring opportunities for partnership between public health and economic development practitioners – just two of the many partners needed for successful community change. Through the day, sessions narrowed to focus on community strategies for healthy eating and active living (HEAL) that could have health and economic benefits.

Jamie Cousins, a current Jim Bernstein Health Leadership Fellow, led the coordination of the event. “Being a part of the Bernstein Fellowship, I’ve been inspired and challenged (in the best way) by Jim Bernstein’s commitment and leadership to rural North Carolina communities. The Summit and continued dialogue and action are humble efforts to carry forward his spirit and belief in our rural communities. I am truly grateful to the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust for the support which made the Summit a reality. The NC Rural Health Leadership Alliance provided financial support through the National Rural Health Leadership grant and was a terrific partner in this event.”

In review of the event, participants shared that the Summit was a valuable investment of their time and that the three primary objectives of the Summit were well-met:

  • they were more aware of practical strategies that address the goals of public health and economic development while supporting healthy eating and active living;
  • they could identify collaborative opportunities for professionals, advocates, and residents to advance economic vitality and health for all;
  • they plan to take action to work jointly to advance public health and economic vitality.

20161020_111611Participants wrote Commitment Cards declaring at least one action to complete before the end of 2016.  Most of the commitments involved reaching out to local partners such as economic development professionals or chambers of commerce to talk about opportunities for collaboration. Other commitments included sharing information from the Summit and connecting with agencies to move work forward together. As Jamie Cousins continues her Bernstein Fellowship and supports the ideas and new collaborations from the Summit, participants will be contacted in early January to learn how they’ve progressed. Additionally, Summit proceedings will be shared, and several small group discussions are planned to continue to advance dialogue and action.

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and the National Rural Health Association provided funding for the Summit, and the NC Rural Health Leadership Alliance, the Jim Bernstein Community Health Leadership Fellows Program, the Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation, the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, and the NC Division of Public Health Community and Clinical Connections for Prevention and Health Branch all contributed resources for the event.


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”;

  1. Invest in small businesses and entrepreneurship to grow local and regional industries.
  2. Increase support for quality child care and education (birth through age 8) and parenting support to improve school readiness.
  3. Work within the formal and informal education system to support healthy eating and active living.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.