Healthy Rowan to take part in Duke Endowment initiative

Organization will receive $450,000 to help improve health in Rowan County over three years 

By Healthy Rowan

SALISBURY — A $450,000 grant from The Duke Endowment over three years is expected to help improve health in Rowan County.

Healthy Rowan, a group of community organizations working collaboratively on health issues, was awarded the grant and is now one of 10 participants in The Duke Endowment’s initiative, Healthy People, Healthy Carolinas.

The program takes a new approach to addressing chronic health issues such as unhealthy weight, diabetes and heart disease. Local coalitions such as Healthy Rowan will involve leaders from a wide spectrum of community organizations in developing ways to engage residents in improving their health.

Healthy People, Healthy Carolinas is now expanding to five new counties—Brunswick, Henderson, Pitt, Robeson and Rowan—with plans to expand throughout the Carolinas over the coming years. The initiative began in early 2016 in five diverse North Carolina regions — Catawba, Chatham, Granville/Vance, Montgomery/Richmond and Wilkes counties.

North Carolina ranks 31st among the states when it comes to the overall health of its residents, with two-thirds of residents considered overweight or obese. Healthy People, Healthy Carolinasrecognizes that health and well-being are created and sustained not just through individual and clinical efforts, but through the cooperation and support of the whole community.

Healthy People, Healthy Carolinas provides opportunities to bring together leaders from hospitals, health departments and other health-promoting organizations. A crucial first step—and one that is funded by The Duke Endowment’s grant — is to strengthen the infrastructure of the local coalitions that are coordinating the effort, so that they’re well-positioned to identify and implement programs that work.

“The health challenges facing the Carolinas have been decades in the making,” said Lin Hollowell, director of health care of The Duke Endowment. “They cannot be effectively addressed overnight, though we’re starting to see the roots of progress take hold in the first set of Healthy People, Healthy Carolinas communities.”

Hollowell said communities can work together to confront health problems and find solutions.

Novant Health Rowan Medical Center is among Healthy Rowan’s participating agencies, and officials there are grateful to The Duke Endowment, according to Dari Caldwell, the hospital’s president and COO.

“The Healthy People, Healthy Carolinas grant is one of several the Endowment has made to our medical center foundation in recent years benefiting Rowan County residents,” Caldwell said. “Clearly, The Duke Endowment recognizes both the needs and the opportunities that exist locally. North Carolinians indeed are fortunate to be beneficiaries of one of the largest healthcare philanthropic legacies in the country.”

Rowan County and the city of Salisbury are also part of the collaborative effort.

“Rowan County is proudly partnering with the City of Salisbury and others around the county on behalf of our citizens,” said Judy Klusman, Rowan County commissioner. “Healthy Rowan is the vehicle we are working through in helping folks understand the importance of good health and support systems to move toward that goal.”

Mayor Karen Alexander speaks highly of the initiative.

Healthy Rowan is a phenomenon whose time has come thanks to the political and social framework in place to support working across sectors and communities, by breaking out of silos to create a holistic approach to improving our health ranking in North Carolina,” Alexander, said. “Healthy Rowan will craft solutions to better health outcomes with all sectors around the table supporting our citizens through education, self-empowerment and comprehensive wrap around support systems.”

Krista Woolly, executive director of Community Care Clinic, said the health of the community depends on the health of individual residents.

“This idea is not to identify only one sector of unhealthy people but for ALL Rowan County residents to take stock of their personal health,” she said, “as well as those in their sphere of influence — from CEOs of companies offering employee wellness opportunities, to classroom teachers providing only healthy snacks, to parents and grandparents who set family goals to walk/run a 5K. Everyone can set goals to become healthier. It will take all of us to make this work.”

Representatives from the coalitions will participate in a learning collaborative with opportunities to share information with each other as they develop best practices for organizing, planning and implementing evidence-based programs known to improve health.

“The coalitions selected by the Endowment are intentionally diverse and unique,” said Laura Edwards of Population Health Improvement Partners, the North Carolina-based organization that provides expert assistance to each local coalition. “While there will be many opportunities for exchanging ideas, each community will receive support to pave its own path forward. The hope is that eventually the lessons of these coalitions can inform the work of others throughout the Carolinas.”

 Based in Charlotte and established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James B. Duke, The Duke Endowment is a private foundation that strengthens communities in North Carolina and South Carolina by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds and enriching spirits. Since its founding, it has awarded more than $3 billion in grants.

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