Collaboration in a time of crisis
The pandemic not only created new hardships for rural North Carolina, but it exacerbated existing challenges, such as broadband access and inequitable healthcare delivery systems. In the face of a rapidly changing health and economic situation, the question for the NC Rural Center became: how do we ensure that our state’s rural people and places have access to the information, tools, and resources necessary to endure the known and unknown challenges of the pandemic?
To answer this question, the Center partnered with the NC Rural Coalition Fighting COVID-19, convened by the Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation, and including Hometown Strong, the Office of Rural Health, and the North Carolina Area Health Education Center (NC AHEC). The Coalition works to create a feedback loop between statewide rural- and health-focused organizations and rural communities, hosting bi-weekly convenings to unify, coordinate, and troubleshoot COVID-19 mitigation/elimination efforts.
“This two-way communication helped us respond to our communities more strategically, as well as find the right organizations and resources to step in and offer assistance based on real-time feedback.”
So far, the Coalition has disseminated vital data and information about vaccines, testing, and available resources for rural communities across the state, in addition to hosting webinars and other virtual convenings on topics related to the pandemic, such as mental health, back-to-school health and safety, grant programs and sources of federal assistance, among others. Of significant importance, the Coalition also hosted virtual listening sessions to hear directly from local community leaders about what was and was not working in their communities regarding COVID-19 mitigation efforts, and shared that information directly with state health leaders and decision makers.
“Strengthening our ties with our partners and the communities we all serve through the Coalition has allowed us to learn best and better practices for resource and knowledge-sharing that can be translated into a variety of contexts,” said Todd Brantley, NC Rural Center vice president of public affairs. “So the next time our state endures any kind of hardship, we have the systems and muscle memory in place to respond more effectively—and that’s what resilience is all about.”
For more information about the NC Rural Coalition Fighting COVID-19, including information and resources from past meetings, visit the Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation’s website here.