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Cabarrus Health Alliance Turns 20, Talks Accomplishments & Goals for the Future

Aug 04, 2017 03:44PM ● Published by Melanie Heisinger

Cabarrus Health Alliance with healthy choices at the ballpark. Courtesy of their Facebook page.

Early July 2017, Cabarrus Health Alliance turned 20 years old. 

Cabarrus Health Alliance (CHA) was created in 1997 as a successor to the Cabarrus County Health Department.  Organized as an independent governmental entity, CHA is incorporated as the Public Health Authority of Cabarrus County.  The public health authority model is rooted in the belief that local public health problems are best addressed by local partnerships. 

From its inception, the CHA Board has expressed its philosophy and vision in its mission:  “To achieve the highest level of individual and community health through collaborative action.”
 
Today, CHA employs over 215 staff members across two locations (Kannapolis and Concord), providing a comprehensive array of public health services to its residents.  Through more than 70 services and programs, CHA seeks to improve overall community health and eliminate health disparities by providing clinical services, health education, and prevention programming to the uninsured and underserved members of the community.
 
CHA also provides environmental health protection and disease surveillance and prevention, as well as a vast range of clinical services that encompass:  breast health services, comprehensive maternity and pediatric primary care, family planning, WIC, immunizations, dental services, case management, communicable disease services, and school nursing.  Lastly, CHA houses a model Public Health Solutions department dedicated to mobilizing innovative, evidence-based programs that respond directly to community-voiced needs.

We got in touch with Local Public Health Director for Cabarrus County Dr. William Pilkington to learn more about CHA, its accomplishments, and what to expect in the future. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What's your role there? 

My professional career includes time in the Governor’s Office back in the 70’s as a Policy Advisor; I then spent four years with a regional health planning agency in Charlotte before being hired as the Local Public Health Director for Cabarrus County in 1981.  I have three Masters Degrees - Public Affairs, Public Administration, and most recently Homeland Security from the Naval Postgraduate School in 2014.  I have a Doctorate in Public Administration from the University of Southern California Los Angeles. 

I’ve had the honor of chairing numerous boards and committees in addition to teaching at UNC Charlotte, UNC Chapel Hill, and The George Washington University.

CHA is 20 years old! Was there a celebration for this?

Employees enjoyed a small lunch together.  We will have a larger celebration in the fall when our School Nurses are back to work. 

How has the overall journey been?

The journey from traditional public health department to Cabarrus Health Alliance, a public health authority, has been exciting.  No two days have been the same and each day brings new surprises and new challenges.  It has been rewarding as we have changed the face of public health in Cabarrus County with improved access and availability of dental care, pediatric care, and maternal health care services for the medically underserved.  Parts of the journey have been amazing especially when I think about our School Health nursing program.  It is the envy of all other public health departments.  But the journey has also been challenging as we are just beginning the related problems of mental health and substance use which are now our major public health problems in this nation. 

At the end of the day, I’m encouraged by progress.  We’ve developed wonderful partnerships in our community to address our obesity epidemic. 

What's been one of the greatest accomplishments so far?

Two come to mind immediately.  The School Health Program places a nurse in every single public school in Cabarrus County.  We were the first county in NC to accomplish having a 1:1 school to nurse ratio.  Many communities are still trying to get a ‘Nurse in every school’ because they see the value in having a dedicated health professional on campus, learning the students and staff needs, and becoming part of the school culture.  Parents, students, and school staff depend on the nurses and have become accustomed to having them on campus.  They also provide additional ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’ for disease surveillance, prevention, and detection at each of their schools. 

Secondly, the CHA Dental Program fills a large need in the community.  The dental program began by simply serving children in an office with two dental chairs.  The program has now grown to two locations with a total of 18 dental chairs in addition to a portable dental unit that visits all of the public schools.  Oral health is an important part of someone’s overall health and wellbeing but is so often put on the back burner.  Through continued growth and community need, the program is now able to serve adults and those in neighboring counties. 

How has the CHA impacted the surrounding communities? 

Many of our programs and services cross county lines or allow those from other counties to be served by CHA.  We know that health status, communicable diseases, and poor health behaviors don’t stop at county borders.  A great example of this is our current Minority Diabetes Prevention Project.  The NC Minority Diabetes Prevention Program is administered by Cabarrus Health Alliance and services are provided in the following counties:  Cabarrus, Catawba, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, and Rowan counties.  The goal of the program is to screen community members for pre-diabetes and refer those at risk to the CDC  Lifestyle Classes “Prevent T2” or  “Prevenga el T2” in their respective counties.
 

What does CHA hope for the future? What are CHA's goals?

Our goal is to continue to provide excellent service through strategic programming and innovative solutions.  The unknowns associated with healthcare reform are vast.  We are committed to constantly transforming to meet the needs of our community.  Our unique structure allows us to be nimble and flexible.  Our Community Needs Assessment and Strategic Plan will continue to drive our work along with continuous input from partner organizations and the patients we serve.
 

Anything else we should know?

We hope the public will join us at an upcoming cooking class in our Wellness Kitchen or visit the facility for a free yoga class on Friday nights.  The best way to keep up with activities is visiting our webpage, www.cabarrushealth.org, following us on social media, and signing up for our alerts via the webpage.  

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