Beaufort County chosen for healthful initiative

Published 7:11 pm Saturday, May 19, 2012

Beaufort County is one of three counties in the state chosen to receive money for projects to improve the health of its residents from a North Carolina-based nonprofit organization.

The program, Healthy Places N.C., was announced this week by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.

The program is a new “place-based” initiative aimed at improving the health and overall quality of life for people in rural areas of the state, according to information from the trust announcing the grants.

Other counties chosen for the program are Halifax County in northeastern North Carolina and McDowell County near Asheville.

The three counties were chosen for the new program based on a variety of factors, including a population analysis, the health needs of the community and the ability of both the public and private sector to participate in the program, according to Allen J. Smart, director of the trust’s health-care division.

The trust also wanted the first three counties chosen for the program to represent the geographic and cultural diversity of the state, he said.

“Each of these three counties showed some unexpectedly positive trends or successes in health outcomes,” he said. “This indicates some existing momentum on which the communities hope to build.”

“Beaufort, Halifax and McDowell had a ‘readiness factor,’” he said. “We found significant interest and energy to pursue new approaches and sustain new opportunities.”

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust was established in 1947 and is now one of the largest private trusts in the state. Its mission is to improve the quality of life and quality of health for the financially needy of North Carolina.

Its health-care division promotes wellness statewide by investing in prevention and treatment.

“In order to have more impact and achieve more lasting results, we are rethinking how and where we allocate resources,” said Karen McNeil Miller, president of the trust. “Healthy Places N.C. is about finding ways to go deeper in a community where we can effect real change rather than spreading our efforts so wide that we dilute our chances of success.”

Smart said the trust will identify opportunities for improving the health of residents of each individual county based on each community’s interests as determined by recent conversations with government, business, education, religious and other leaders in the community.

“We are not launching a one-size fits all initiative,” he said. “The program of work — and the trust’s funding — will be tailored to the unique context of each community.”

In Beaufort County, the trust’s work will be headed by J. Nelson Weaver.