Trust president visits county, highlights health initiative

Published 5:56 pm Friday, September 2, 2016

The new president of a statewide foundation recently visited Beaufort County to discuss partnerships and collaboration to promote overall health.

Dr. Laura Gerald, president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, visited Washington on Aug. 25 for a networking meet-and-greet event held at the Washington Civic Center. The event brought together community leaders and representatives from the trust to discuss an ongoing initiative to improve health and wellness in Beaufort County.

The trust was established by Kate Gertrude Bitting Reynolds to continue work she supported during her lifetime and before her death in 1946. Eighty to 90 percent of the trust’s health investment programs are invested in rural counties, while nationally, only around 10 percent of private foundation funding goes to rural communities.

Beaufort County was selected for one such program, Healthy Places NC, which brings community leaders and representatives together to identify programs and issues that would have the most impact on the overall health of the community.

During the Aug. 25 meeting, Gerald referred to bridging gaps in the community to find new, innovative ways to increase health.

Gerald highlighted her experience as a physician, as well as having served as the North Carolina State Health Director in the Dept. of Health and Human Services. She said the trust plans to work in Beaufort County over the next 10 years, at least, to meet the challenges facing the rural community.

During her address, Gerald spoke about how the program would, over time, decrease obesity and other chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, as well as increase healthy eating and active living.

“I’m very encouraged and excited about where we are as far as our challenges,” Gerald said. “I’m impressed with how many different people are collaborating and working together to solve the county’s problems. I think it’s a great time to be working on health improvement, and I’m encouraged by the partnerships and things I’m seeing.”

Adam Linker, a program officer for the Kate B. Reynolds Trust in the eastern North Carolina region, said the organization not only awards grants for projects and programs, but also provides assistance in forging new partnerships around its Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) collaborative. HEAL meets monthly and is currently working on mapping out different places in the county where people can go for exercise and to access healthy foods.

Another collaborative, called Beaufort County 360, brings together leadership from Vidant Beaufort Hospital, the Beaufort County Health Department, Beaufort/Hyde Partnership for Children, DSS and other agencies to talk about how to improve healthcare. Other programs and projects are in the works, as well, according to Linker.

“Really, what the initiative is about is coming in and listening a lot to the community and figuring out what work is already going on and where there is movement and facilitating some of that work and more importantly, building relationships between organizations that haven’t worked much together,” Linker said. “Most of our work and grants are community driven and brings together different partners and that’s key to improving overall health.”

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