PLEASE NOTE: Greensboro AHEC is now known as Piedmont AHEC. The organization’s name changed on February 1, 2023.

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Connection Academy participants discuss how health care, public health, and human service models of care are connected.

As the state transitions to Medicaid managed care, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, NC DHHS, is actively addressing three healthy opportunities: transportation, food insecurity, and interpersonal violence. In the fall of 2018, Greensboro Area Health Education Center (AHEC) hosted a conference on healthy opportunities that focused on these three social determinants of health. The energy, passion, and concern of the more than 200 conference attendants spilled over into a follow-up training led by Greensboro AHEC. The new Human Service and Health Care Providers Connection Academy, designed to build relationships across individuals in health care and community human service organizations, was born from these efforts.

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Connection Academy participants brainstorm in cross-sector groups to create a list of possibilities and potential barriers to addressing social determinants of health.

Starting in January of 2019, interested participants were asked to complete a survey to join the inaugural cohort of the Human Service and Health Care Providers Connection Academy. A diverse cohort of 56 participants representing 38 unique organizations in the health care, food insecurity, housing, interpersonal violence, or transportation sectors, from seven North Carolina counties, participated in the three-month longitudinal education event.

Connection Academy participants attended three face-to-face sessions and three informational webinars. Topics covered include the identification and merging of the health care, public health, and human service models of care; understanding the barriers of the regulatory world; the NCCARE360 platform; healthy opportunity screening forms; and NC Medicaid transformation.

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Each Connection Academy participant was assigned to a project group based on their field of work. Over three months, the groups prepared a final presentation highlighting work in the community or addressing a new idea to implement.

During the three months of the Connection Academy, participants joined in meaningful connections across local organizations, held crucial conversations around racial equity and wealth divide, shared real-time information on statewide initiatives, and provided tangible examples of projects addressing healthy opportunities in the community.

“The beauty and benefit of the Human Service and Health Care Providers Connection Academy was that it brought together people from a broad range of human services and health care organizations to focus on the important intersection of health services and human services organizations addressing social drivers of health, in order to achieve better health outcomes,” noted one participant. “I liked the fact that the sessions went deeper than conversation and included reflection, interaction, and group projects. It was remarkable to hear diverse viewpoints, but a shared vision of better health outcomes for all. I came away with partnerships and action steps that I can implement right away.”

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The final day of the Connection Academy included group presentations and celebrations of new connections and resources.

In the future, the success of upstreaming healthy opportunities to improve health outcomes will rely on meaningful connections between human service and health care providers in all counties across North Carolina. The inaugural cohort of the Human Service and Health Care Providers Connection Academy is just the beginning of Greensboro AHEC’s journey to meeting NC AHEC’s mission of bridging academic institutions and communities to improve the health of the people of North Carolina with a focus on underserved populations.

The Human Service and Health Care Providers Connection Academy was made possible by a NC AHEC Investment in the Future grant and a collaborative effort among Greensboro AHEC, Cone Health Healthy Communities, Cone Health Foundation, United Way of Greater Greensboro, Guilford County Health Department, and Alamance County Health Department.