Story Spotlight

Story Spotlight

Connection Academy Builds Relationships Among Health Care and Human Service Providers

During this time of Medicaid transformation, the NC Depar tment of Health and Human Services has identified four social determinants of health or healthy opportunities that will be actively addressed. The four opportunities are: housing, transportation, food insecurity and interpersonal violence. In the fall of 2018, Greensboro AHEC hosted a conference on healthy opportunities that focused on these four determinants. The energy, passion and concern of the more than 200 participants who attended that conference spilled over into a follow-up training that was led by Greensboro AHEC. Born from the evaluations and community planning members was the Human Service and Health Care Providers Connection Academy (“Connection Academy”).

Connection Academy Discussion GroupStarting in January of 2019, interested participants were asked to complete a survey to join the inaugural cohort of the Human Service and Health Care Providers Connection Academy. A diverse cohort of 56 participants who worked in either health care, food insecurity, housing, interpersonal violence or transportation were invited to join a three-month longitudinal education event. The intent of the Connection Academy was to build relationships across individuals in healthcare and community human service organizations. The participants represented 38 unique organizations across seven N.C. counties. Participants attended three face-to-face sessions and three informational webinars. Topics covered include: the identification and merging of the healthcare, public health and human service models of care; understanding the barriers of the regulatory world; the NCCARE360 platform; Healthy Opportunity screening forms; and N.C. Medicaid transformation.

Connection Academy Brainstorming PossibilitiesOver the Connection Academy’s three months, participants joined in meaningful connections across local organizations, held crucial conversations around racial equity and wealth divide, shared real-time information on statewide initiatives and provided tangible examples of projects addressing healthy opportunities in the community.

“The beauty and benefit of the Human Service and Health Care Providers Connection Academy was that it brought together people from a broad range of human services and health care organizations to focus on the important intersection of health services and human services organizations addressing social drivers of health, in order to achieve better health outcomes," said one participant. "I liked the fact that the sessions went deeper than conversation and included reflection, interaction and group projects. It was remarkable to hear diverse viewpoints, but a shared vision of better health outcomes for all. I came away with partnerships and action steps that I can implement right away.”

In the future, the success of upstreaming healthy opportunities to improve health outcomes will rely on meaningful connections between human service and healthcare providers in all counties across North Carolina. The inaugural cohort of the Human Service and Health Care Providers Connection Academy is just the beginning of Greensboro AHEC’s journey to meeting NC AHEC’s mission of bridging academic institutions and communities to improve the health of the people of North Carolina with a focus on underserved populations. 

The Human Service and Health Care Providers Connection Academy was made possible by a NC AHEC Investment in the Future grant and a collaborative effort between Greensboro AHEC, Cone Health Healthy Communities, Cone Health Foundation, United Way of Greater Greensboro, Guilford County Health Department and the Alamance County Health Department.

Connection Academy Group Photo


Focusing on Social Determinants of Health: Transportation, Food, Housing and Toxic Stress

Michelle and Aswita

Greensboro AHEC partnered with numerous local organizations to host more than 200 healthcare professionals and human service providers from across North Carolina at the “Focusing on Social Determinants of Health: Transportation, Food, Housing and Toxic Stress” conference on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. Presenters and participants from nonprofit organizations, hospitals, behavioral health agencies, public health departments, emergency medical services, schools and grassroots organizations in urban and rural communities identified strategies to address social determinants of health. Dynamic keynote presentations by Michelle Gethers-Clark, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Greensboro, and Aswita Tan-McGrory, deputy director of the Disparities Solutions Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, provided an imperative call to action. An engaging performance and debriefing from Theater Delta, a theater group for social change, provided a glimpse of the impact and interconnectedness of social determinants of health. Interactive breakout sessions from community leaders focused on six key areas of social determinants of health: transportation, food, housing, toxic stress, racism and wealth divide.

Representatives from several community agencies were also available throughout the day to provide resources. Planning for this program involved intentional collaboration between multi-disciplines within Greensboro AHEC including Continuing Professional Development, Practice Support and Technology Services. The program was also a collaborative effort between Greensboro AHEC, Cone Health Healthy Communities, Cone Health Foundation, Cone Health Office of Inclusion and Health Equity, United Way of Greater Greensboro, Guilford County Health Department and the Greensboro Housing Coalition.


National AHEC Organization: 2018 Andy Nichols Award for Social Justice

The Andy Nichols Award for Social Justice is provided in honor of Andrew W. Nichols, MD, MPH. He was a visionary who lived a life of service in pursuit of justice and health for all, and, most specifically, for the disadvantaged. Dr. Nichols established and directed Arizona’s statewide system of Area Health Education Centers, the State Office of Rural Health and the Arizona Health Education Training Center(HETC) program. Dr. Nichols was also a driving force in the National AHEC Program, was a tireless advocate for our programs before Congress. The award is given to an individual, a specific project or an organization in the AHEC network that exemplifies Dr. Nichols' vision and persistent service in pursuit of social justice. The award was presented to Shawn Houck, RN, MSN, and Jeffrey Walden, MD, of Greensboro AHEC in July at the 2018 NAO Biennial Conference in Washington, D.C.

2018 NAO Andy Nichols Award for Social JusticeBrief overview: Guilford Refugee Health Coalition Development Project

This project was the creation of the Guilford Refugee Health Coalition developed by Shawn Houck, MSN, RN, and Jeffrey Walden, MD, of Greensboro AHEC, which comprises eight community agency partners, including the Cone Health Congregational Nursing Program, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Center for New North Carolinians, Church World Service and African Service Coalition (two local refugee resettlement agencies), Cone Health Center for Children, the Cone Health Office of Inclusion and the Cone Health Family Medicine Refugee Clinic. North Carolina has historically been, and remains, one of the top ten states in the country for resettled refugees, and Guilford County receives the second-highest number of refugees in the state, at around 1,000 persons in 2016. This target population often includes individuals with compromised health status who require advanced support measures to effectively navigate cultural and linguistic barriers in a vastly different healthcare system.

While refugees are generally eligible for more benefits than other groups of immigrants, they face more acute barriers to healthcare, including language, literacy and cultural differences. The pilot project is in Swahili, and the toolkit will be translated in future languages most commonly cared for in the community. As the first project of this coalition, a refugee health literacy toolkit/navigation directory has been created to help newly-arrived refugees in Greensboro navigate a new healthcare system. Establishing a health presence can lead refugees to become productive U.S. citizens with earlier work development status for sustainable community settlement. This toolkit serves as an integration piece across agencies for communication and patient support needs, while also facilitating useful community healthcare information to the refugee community target population.


2018 REACH Program

Greensboro AHEC’s Rural Educational Approach to Community Health (REACH) program is a 2-week summer residential program for first and second-year Medical students, Nurse Practitioner students and Physician Assistant students. The program is held in Asheboro, N.C., and exposes students to rural community medicine through several learning experiences. The REACH Program allows students to shadow and network with rural health providers, experience the richness of community and gain knowledge through interdisciplinary training. Another great aspect of the program is the “cultural” component that exposes students to an array of art, museums and local eateries. This experience allows students to develop an appreciation for history and culture that can be found in a rural setting.

REACH Program 2018This year’s participant Adrienne White, RN, is a Nurse Practitioner student from UNC Wilmington. Adrienne currently works as a part-time nurse and has a passion for serving people in need. Her focus as a Nurse Practitioner will be on health literacy, preventative care and disease management. Tonya Baldwin, REACH program coordinator, was happy to present Adrienne with a certificate of completion on June 29. Students are required to submit a reflection essay and present a poster presentation at the end of their experience in the program.

“Small town. Country Living. Rural communities can be found all across North Carolina. It is important that healthcare providers understand and are aware and capable of meeting the needs of this patient population. The REACH program opens the doors to fulfilling this need," says Adrienne.


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