Healthier Together

Healthier Together: Health Equity Action Network

Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) play a major role in the health and wellness of the communities they serve. During the COVID-19 pandemic, NC Counts Coalition (NC Counts) and our membership of CBO partners served as an important link between community members and care. Although not traditionally thought of as health care organizations, NC Counts and 48 of the our CBO partners leveraged and created opportunities and resources to serve and empower BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities in NC through Healthier Together.

Healthier Together

Healthier Together is a public-private partnership between NC Counts  and NC Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) to advance health equity. NC Counts partnered with NC DHHS to co-develop a model and systematic framework that leverages NC Counts’ civic engagement, equity centered and collective impact infrastructure to engage historically marginalized populations with NC DHHS programs. Our Healthier Together public-private partnership has been instrumental in increasing access to health services and resources in historically marginalized communities. NC Counts has successfully served as an intermediary in connecting NC DHHS and local health departments to CBOs to better engage and reach communities, and to cultivate trust. NC Counts’ regional team, covering NC’s six Medicaid managed care regions, has been instrumental in the success of the Healthier Together partnership, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. From November 2021 to September 2022, our regional teams alongside NC Counts’ community partners:  Interacted with over 1.2 million individuals; Helped more than 32,000 individuals get connected to vaccines; Connected more than 46,000 individuals to community health workers; Connected more than 8,000 individuals to transportation resources, and; Connected more than 6,900 individuals to COVID-19 testing resources. 

The Healthier Together partnership has also leveraged and expanded NC Count’s community outreach grant program. Through our vaccine equity initiative, we regranted $5,952,928 to 67 community-based organizations (CBOs) (48 Healthier Together grantees) through Healthier Together and additional funding sources. Ninety Seven percent (97%) of funded CBOs are BIPOC led and focused, with an average annual budget size of $288,000.00. In addition to funding, NC Counts provides community partners with:

  • Monthly health equity meetings to foster CBO partnerships and a collaborative space to identify and address health disparities;
  • Information, data, education and messaging to equip CBOs with the tools they need to be successful in implementing vaccine equity outreach;
  • Connections to county health departments and NCDHHS with NC Counts serving as an intermediary between CBOs and government agencies;
  • Communications training, including a workshop on how to use Canva for design needs, and communications toolkits and literature; and
  • Support and guidance for grant management, networking, data and reporting.

CBOs funded through NC Counts’ community outreach grant program have expressed enthusiasm for the Healthier Together partnership, stating that Healthier Together funds have been transformative to their operation. Healthier Together funding has elevated the work of small CBOs, often overlooked and unfunded, who are trusted to work in niche communities that larger nonprofits and government agencies struggle to access. As a stable and trusted partner to CBOs, and as an organization known throughout the state not only for its programming but also as an agency that fosters a sense of trust, NC Counts has become a valuable partner to NC DHHS when it comes to understanding community needs. We understand the unique dynamics of CBO engagement and what it takes to create successful health-focused partnerships and programs to respond to the needs of historically marginalized communities. 

As NC Counts transitions Healthier Together programming from vaccine equity to health equity and the social determinants of health, the organization has interviewed its network of CBO partners to identify needs within their communities. During interviews and focus groups, there was a resounding consensus to prioritize mental and behavioral health. According to our CBO partners there is a great need to provide behavioral health first-aid and basic services, and basic behavioral health information to meet the needs of the community.  Our organization and our CBO partners have witnessed firsthand the mental, emotional, and physical toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on community members and families, especially children and adolescents. 

NC Counts and NC DHHS are looking to expand the impact of Healthier Together. In the wake of COVID-19, there is a unique opportunity to galvanize the Healthier Together network of CBO partners to close health equity gaps that have become more evident. NC Counts proposes leveraging and building-on the organization’s unique and unprecedented cross-sector infrastructure to address the mental and behavioral health needs of  BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, and others) children and adolescents in North Carolina through Healthier Together.