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The action-learning process teaches fellows to bring together their different agendas and perspectives, and devise a unified approach to reach goals essential for their community’s health.

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Team BRIDGE focused on the importance of collaboration across rural health agencies. Many organizations in rural Eastern North Carolina have tried singlehandedly to address health disparities and health inequalities, yet have had a minimal impact. With a continuous decline in federal, state, and private funds, and a decline in independent organizations that support health services, this team saw a need for area organizations to pool resources. Bridge created a collaborative model that could be used across the region to best utilize resources for improving the overall health and well-being of disadvantaged citizens. Team members include : Samuel Dickens from the Rocky Mount Opportunities Industrialization Center; James Garner from the Nash County Health Department; Ron Hunt from tThe Rocky Mount Telegram/university hhe Wilson County Department of Social Services; Elisa Quarles from CrossWorks; Holly White from Halix Community College; and Chris Wood from the Nash Cancer Treatment Center.

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Fit Families saw the need to provide resources that educate communities in Eastern North Carolina about healthy living and to boost access to information about good physical activity and nutrition in the mily setting. To do so, the team increased funding for and marketed Wayne County’s already popular Fit and Fabulous program, it available to two additional Eastern North Carolina counties. The program integrates nutrition and nutrition and fitness activities that empower consumers to change their lifestyles. Team members include: Suzie Acree and Patty Huffman from the Partnership for Children of Wayne County; Monnie Lunsford of the O’Berry Center Foundation in Wayne County; Tammra Morrison from the Wilson County Health Department; Jason Rochelle from the Down East Partnership for children in Nash County; Christine Smith of the NC Cooperative Extension in Wayne County; and Laurie Stradley from the Center for Health & Wellness at the University of North Carolina, Asheville.

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PATH (Promoting Access to Healthcare) sought to increase awareness of local health resources among North Carolina’s most vulnerable populations and to help these citizens navigate the local and state health care systems more efficiently. In the process, the team aimed to improve access to care and to increase interagency collaboration. At the completion of the project, the PATH team plans to have a virtual and/or written to for each county they represents (Halix, Nash, Warren and Wayne) that identifies each county’s resources for medical health, mental health, transportation and medication assistance. The information will be presented to citizens and providers to increase access to in-county services. Team members include: Patricia Artis from the Nash County Health Department; Brenda Branch, a district court judge in Halix County; Rovonda Freeman from the March of Dimes in Wayne County; Melanie Meeks from the Brody School of Medicine at ECU in Pitt County; and Tammy Rodwell with Warren County Schools.

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Ladder to Leadership: Developing the Next Generation of Community Health Leaders, is a 16-month program for emerging leaders at health-related nonprofits and local government agencies. The program, a partnership between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Center for Creative Leadership teaches early — to mid-career nonprofit and health care professionals how to make the most of scant resources, and how to collaborate more powerfully with other community organizations.

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The Rocky Mount Telegram/university h,Ladder to Leadership graduates includes, from left at front, Patty Huffman, Lisa Quarles, Rovonda Freeman, Christine Smith and Monnie Lunsford; and from left at back, Tammra Morrison, Jason Rochelle, Chris Wood, Samuel Dickens, Laurie Stradley, Jerome Garner, Ron Hunt, Patricia Artis, Melanie Meeks, Brenda Branch and Tammy Rodwell.

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Several residents of Nash County and the surrounding areas participated in a Ladder to Leadership program designed to help local nonprofit health organizations come together to tackle specific health care challenges cing Eastern North Carolina. In the process, they learned critical leadership skills that that will benefit local non-profit organizations at a time when many leaders of the Baby Boom generation are retiring. Representatives from several Eastern North Carolina organizations participated, including the Nash County Health Department, the Rocky Mount Opportunities Industrialization Center, CrossWorks, the Down East Partnership for Children and the Nash Cancer Treatment Center of Nash Health Care.

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Lynn Flick-Cooper, Leader to Leadership’s national program office deputy director, said, Learning new behaviors takes time, so we provided the fellows with a comprehensive 16-month process to prepare them for future leadership roles Through their ‘action-learning’ projects, the program provides fellows with real situations where they apply what they’ve learned, and achieve the health outcomes we want for Eastern North Carolina.

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Ladder to Leadership, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is collaborated locally in North Carolina with the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.

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The three teams are as follows:

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We know that the only way we can improve health and health care in the United States if we have strong leaders within communities, especially in those communities where the most vulnerable reside, said RWJF program Officer Sallie George. The country is cing an exodus of senior nonprofit leaders in the next few years. The goal of Ladder to Leadership is to build the capacity of nonprofit leadership, so leaders are available to fill that gap.

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Ladder to Leadership graduates includes, from left at front, Patty Huffman, Lisa Quarles, Rovonda Freeman, Christine Smith and Monnie Lunsford; and from left at back, Tammra Morrison, Jason Rochelle, Chris Wood, Samuel Dickens, Laurie Stradley, Jerome Garner, Ron Hunt, Patricia Artis, Melanie Meeks, Brenda Branch and Tammy Rodwell.

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