March 24, 2010 — The Healthy Appalachia Institute, a joint venture drawing upon the resources of the University of Virginia and U.Va.'s College at Wise, has received a grant from the National Network of Public Health Institutes, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to foster a healthier citizenry in Southwest Virginia.
The institute is one of six emerging public health institutes to receive the support to undertake a range of activities intended to cultivate partnerships, enhance executive leadership and build the capacity to inform health policy.
Housed at U.Va.'s College at Wise, the Healthy Appalachia Institute is a collaboration between critical thinkers, scholars, system planners and leaders at U.Va.-Wise, the University of Virginia, the Southwest Virginia Health Authority and key partners in government, education, business and health care, including the Virginia Department of Health's LENOWISCO and Cumberland Plateau districts. Principal supporters include the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Virginia Tobacco Commission.
"It is an honor to be recognized by the National Network of Public Health Institutes and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as an emerging institute and for our efforts to improve our residents' health," Marcia Quesenberry, the institute's co-director, said. "The recently released national county health rankings report emphasizes our region's well-documented and longstanding health challenges that must be addressed. Our families, our communities and our region deserve a healthier and more prosperous future."
"The Healthy Appalachia Institute and our partners are developing novel programs and services, leveraging investments and motivating individual and community action," said David Cattell-Gordon, co-director of the institute and director of community engagement and rural network development at U.Va.'s Office of Telemedicine and Cancer Center. "The Health Authority's Blueprint for Health and Health-Enabled Prosperity is our roadmap. We have begun what will one day be seen as the turning point for health in our region and as a national model for other rural communities."
The institute's mission is to improve the health, education, environment and prosperity for residents of central Appalachia by collaborating across communities and organizations, generating and implementing new ideas, and engaging the social, economic and scientific issues that exist at the interface of health and the Appalachian culture.
"Public health institutes leverage resources and partnerships to improve the population's health," said Joseph Kimbrell, chief executive officer of the National Network of Public Health Institutes. "Strengthening these institutes is key to strengthening our nation's public health system."
Karen Minyard, executive director of the Georgia Health Policy Center, one of the nation's premier public health institutes, will serve as Healthy Appalachia's mentor during the grant period. Additionally, the institute will participate with emerging and mentor institutes in learning and leadership meetings, including a workshop at the 2010 National Network of Public Health Institutes annual conference.
The emerging institutes are already working to improve population health through innovative work involving physical activity and nutrition, access to care, social determinants of health, oral health, workforce development and preparedness.
"Public health institutes play a critical role in our nation's public health system," said Michelle Larkin, director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's public health team. "With each expansion of this network, we strengthen our public health system’s ability to help all Americans have the opportunity to be as healthy as they can be."
The National Network of Public Health Institutes has 35 members representing a range of organizations and university affiliates. The institutes and the network help leverage the ability of government public health to fight the obesity epidemic, prepare for the launch of national accreditation and move toward a culture of quality improvement.
"Institutes build capacity at the state and local levels to support community health improvement," said Minyard, who chairs the board of the network."By investing in their development, we are creating a stronger network dedicated to serving communities all over the nation."
For information about the Healthy Appalachia Institute, contact Marcia Quesenberry at 276-328-0254 or David Cattell-Gordon at 434-982-4234.