Healthy Communities

Our goal within this priority area is that every community in North Carolina has the conditions for good health.

Overall Perspective

Creating opportunities for people in North Carolina to be healthy requires changing commonly held beliefs around the actual drivers of health, confronting systemic failures, and elevating the role of policy change. This was true before COVID-19, and even more a reality today.

The recognition that certain policies and practices over time have had destructive consequences – including inequitable distributions of money, power, access, property and resources – coincides with an understanding that health is inextricably linked to community conditions, and that actively engaged stakeholders outside of health care are essential in developing practical and long-lasting changes that improve health. By bringing marginalized community members and groups into the process, strengthening local organizations, and confronting systemic racism and other structural failures, we can go beyond individual needs and improve opportunities for everyone to experience good health.

Strategic Approach and Current Focus  

Since developing a focus on improving health equity through Community-Centered Health in 2014, we have deeply invested in nine communities across the state. Key tenets of this work include community members at the center of the initiatives, supporting clinical-community collaborations, and focusing on root causes of health inequities.

Though delayed in the face of COVID-19, North Carolina has started making significant innovations to “buy health rather than just health care” – a transition that has great potential to improve health, but also comes with the risk of widening disparities between communities. As a result, we’ve deepened our commitment to building capacity in the nonprofit sector, in areas ranging from leadership and communication to transparency and accountability, so that community-based organizations are prepared to partner effectively and equitably with health care entities.

Specifically, our objectives are to:

  • Build broad support for communities to create the opportunity for everyone in North Carolina to be healthy
  • Strengthen capacity for effective collaborations, coalitions, and partnerships to improve health equity
  • Develop leadership capacity to improve health equity
  • Leverage and influence the shift to "buy health," in supporting a transition to value-based care

The impacts of the pandemic at the community-level are striking. The effects of COVID-19 are falling disproportionately on people of color, families with low incomes, the elderly, undocumented immigrants, and incarcerated populations. Nonprofits are seeing furloughs, lack of volunteers, and immense fundraising hurdles – resulting in financial instability and revenue loss. Gaps in access to broadband and technology present barriers to some of the emerging solutions being used in the pandemic – impacting access to care, employment, education, and more. And the speed of Medicaid transformation – which holds so much promise – has slowed dramatically with the Healthy Opportunities Pilots being postponed indefinitely.

As a result of the disruption communities are facing, our current focus is directed toward:

  • Expanding efforts of supporting leaders, boards, and communities to be able to adapt in their pursuit to improve health equity.
  • Continuing to strengthen capacity for effective multi-sector collaborations, coalitions, and partnerships to improve health equity, with a focus on the nine grantees in our Community-Centered Health communities.
  • Supporting policy efforts to address issues facing rural communities and enhanced integration of development opportunities for leaders in rural areas to build advocacy capacity.
  • Exploring opportunities to address chronic underfunding of, and support leadership in, public health – specifically at the local level.
  • Enhancing collaboration across the state with capacity-building intermediary organizations to support local nonprofits.

Contact Us

Valerie Stewart
Director, Healthy Communities


Community-Centered Health

Residents, community organizations, and health care, working together.

BUILD Health Challenge

Since 2016, we have proudly joined funders from across the country in supporting the BUILD Health Challenge, strengthening community collaborations for improved health.