WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Regional health issues and initiatives were the topics when eight North Carolina General Assembly members – from Forsyth, Davie, Wilkes, Davidson, and Yadkin counties – met last week with northwestern North Carolina health educators, public health officials and county commissioners.
The meeting, the area’s first N.C. Public Health Legislative Breakfast Meeting, was sponsored by the Northwest Area Health Education Center (AHEC) of Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Region 3 Northwest Partnership for Public Health. Northwest AHEC is part of the N.C. Area Health Education Centers Program. Region 3 Northwest Partnership consists of 10 counties that fall within Northwest AHEC’s service region: Alleghany, Ashe, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Stokes, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes and Yadkin. Meeting participants included public health department staff members and members of local boards of health.
The objective of the meeting – held at the Reynolda Business Center – was to provide an opportunity for N.C. legislators to become more aware of the current state of public health and initiatives for addressing public health needs in this region and the state. A public health overview highlighted areas such as chronic diseases, environmental health, prevention and protection, and public health services.
The 2005-2006 legislative agenda of the N.C. Association of Local Health Directors was also presented, addressing four key areas: local/district health departments’ accreditation, $2 million in competitive grants-in-aide for comprehensive primary and preventive medical and dental services to uninsured or medically indigent patients, $2.5 million in recurring funds for continuation or expansion of public health incubators, and legislation to authorize counties to set fees for local environmental health programs.
After the two formal presentations, participants discussed funding priorities and needs.
The idea for the meeting developed as Region 3 public health department directors recognized a need to be more resourceful public health advocates to state legislators. Beth Lovette, Wilkes County health director, said that this breakfast-discussion format seemed to be “a very productive and efficient way to clearly make the case for public health needs and priorities to our legislators” as they begin to make hard decisions in legislative sessions.
Legislators attending were Sen. Andrew Brock (Davie), Sen. Linda Garrou (Forsyth), Sen. John Garwood (Wilkes), Sen. Ham Horton (Forsyth), Sen. John Garwood (Wilkes), Rep. Jerry Dockham (Davidson), Rep. Hugh Holliman (Davidson County) and Rep. George Holmes (Yadkin County).
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About Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center: Wake Forest Baptist is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University School of Medicine. It is licensed to operate 1,282 acute care, psychiatric, rehabilitation and long-term care beds and is consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report.