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NHC Health and Human Services seeks federal grant for new health equity division

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At Monday’s regular New Hanover County Board of Commissioners meeting, the county heard from Health and Human Services about a federal grant that will fund a new division focused on health equity.

The federal grant the county is seeking is called Community-Driven Approaches to Address Factors Contributing to Structural Racism in Public Health — the goal is to address health disparities in communities with Historically Marginalized Persons, or HMPs through a "data-driven community approach." The data is coming from the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics.

“Due to a history of trauma as a result of systematic and structural racism, HMPs in New Hanover County, North Carolina have experienced and continue to experience a higher prevalence of chronic illness, epigenetic trauma, morbidity, mortality, and violence in their communities," according to Fawn Rhodes, the Advancing Health Equity Coordinator with the county's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), who gave the presentation.

If the grant is received, HHS will create a Health Equity Division — which will directly address the disparities for HMPs in the medical sphere. Four positions will be funded with the grant: a Community Health Equity Supervisor, two Community Health Equity workers, one in Spanish and one in English, and Community Health Equity Nurse.

The model is based on the “community health worker” model, in which designated, trained individuals will physically go into communities based on census tracts provided by Cape Fear HealthNet. The Community Health Equity Nurse will conduct basic vital assessments such as blood pressure and monitoring glucose levels.

When it comes to referring residents to services, certain community organizations such as LINC Inc. and the Wilmington Housing Authority have signed letters of intent to be "official community partners." Others could be added in the future.

"Trust is a big factor. It is our intent to strengthen and build trusting relationships with our community. This means utilizing service agents that our clients have built relationships with and that they are familiar with. The goal is to refer clients to community partners with whom we have already developed relationships with, and/or the client's personal health provider. That is not to say we would not consider new community partners as the need for services grow," Rhodes said in an email.

The county asked for the maximum grant amount: $500,000 per year for three years.

The board of commissioners voted unanimously to ratify the submission of the application.

Camille hails from Long Island, NY where the exuberance of sports season never ended. She graduated from Boston University with a BS in Journalism and double minors in Classical Civilizations and Philosophy. Chasing stories has been a passion of hers since she was little, channeling itself through her art and writing. Camille’s journey in audio is never ending and she’s served as a podcast producer on multiple shows. When she’s not working she enjoys chatting and gaming with friends, reading, and creating digital art.