August 31, 2016

The North Carolina Institute for Public Health (NCIPH), the service and outreach arm of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, has been awarded a $192,265 grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. The funding will enable two neighboring counties in eastern North Carolina to use data analysis and visualization to enhance public health programs, reduce duplicate efforts and more efficiently serve their populations.

NCIPH will work with leaders in Edgecombe and Nash counties to gather important community-level data and develop easy-to-understand data products, including GIS maps and other innovative visual tools that will improve community health.

The health rankings of the counties, which have a combined population of 150,000, are among the lowest in the state, primarily due to socio-economic conditions. The counties also have higher percentages of people who are Medicaid-eligible than the state average of 17 percent. (Thirty-one percent of Edgecombe County residents are Medicaid-eligible, as are 20 percent of Nash County’s.)

To address these challenges, agencies and nonprofit organizations in both counties have developed multiple resources that aim to improve health and/or socio-economic conditions that affect health. However, the resources often are “siloed” and not visible to the community at large or to agencies that refer people in need.

photo, Amy Belflower Thomas

Amy Belflower Thomas

“Thanks to this grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, the great work these agencies are doing will be greatly amplified,” said Amy Belflower Thomas, MHA, MSPH, who will administer the two-year grant for NCIPH. “We are very grateful because this project will have a great impact on health services on Eastern North Carolina.”

The grant will build upon the foundation provided by a new network of more than 50 agencies in the two counties, called the Twin Counties Partnership for Healthier Communities (TCPHC). Member agencies provide a robust mix of services, with many specifically addressing issues of access to primary care, community-centered prevention, diabetes, mental health and substance abuse.

At least three-quarters of the agencies target predominantly minority, low-income and underserved people. The TCPHC shares information and ideas and develops collective approaches for addressing health issues, but the group faces challenges.

“Like many rural areas in North Carolina, agencies in Nash and Edgecombe counties struggle with a lack of reliable local-level data about the community’s health needs and where or whether there are available services to meet those needs, so it’s virtually impossible to gain a community-level perspective,” Belflower Thomas said. “We can bring capacity in community-level survey collection to gain information about knowledge of health/wellness resources and health services access issues directly from community members. Combined with mapping analysis of existing resources and other secondary data on health status, we hope to provide a better picture of what gaps exist in the community and where. Then, agencies can use this information to better provide services to those who need them and possibly expand services if needed.”

Belflower Thomas noted that the project aims to improve the potential impact of the various health-related programs, services and resources in Nash and Edgecombe by focusing on change at the system level.

“More information means better delivery of services,” she said.

Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or

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