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The Daily Herald – Forum promotes healthy living

A Community Health Forum — “Our Health Matters” — was held on March 4 on the campus of Halifax Community College.

According to a press release from Belinda Hill-Jones, project coordinator for Project for Vaccine Equity, the event was sponsored by the Roanoke Valley Breast Cancer Coalition and the Gregory B. Davis Foundation, with a primary purpose to galvanize the community to work together to build a healthy community that would improve overall health outcomes.

The forum was a part of an effort primarily funded by the CDC Foundation under the Partnership Vaccine Equity effort with support from local and state partners, North Carolina Community Engagement Alliance and the Roanoke Valley Community Health Initiative of ECU Health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a healthy community as one in which local groups from all parts of the community work together to prevent disease and make healthy living options accessible.

Working at the community level to promote healthy living and bring the greatest health benefits to the greatest number of people. It also helps to reduce health gaps caused by differences in income, education, race, ethnicity, location and other factors that can affect health.

Defining characteristics of healthy communities commonly included high vaccination rates to protect its citizens from diseases, easy access to medical care, healthy food options and it provides good mental health resources. The CDC further states, “Communities that have good health resources in place can often recover after a disaster more quickly and with less negative health issues.” Read more at

Patricia Peele of Roanoke Rapids provided a thought-provoking presentation reflecting “where we are,” “who we are” and “how we see ourselves,” the release reads. She highlighted the distinct locations of being along the Interstate 95 corridor, 90-mile distance from major airports; our natural resources and historical sites in the county. She also said visitors and prospective residents look at available information to inform them about “Who We Are.”

A search of Halifax County, NC on the internet shows the county health ranking #97 out of 100 counties. The US News ( ranks Halifax County 15/100 overall scoring.

This was the context for more than 75 Roanoke Valley residents who participated in guided conversations facilitated by Rural Forward and led by Brandy Bynum Dawson of the North Carolina Rural Center. Attendees were given the charge, “What do you want to see in a Healthy Community?” The participants identified three common themes:

(1) Access to services

(2) Social determinants of health and

(3) Civic engagement

The attendees (the community) began to discuss what they desire to see in a healthy Roanoke Valley community, the release reads. Using the common themes developed during the introductory session, work groups discussed their assigned topic during a working lunch.

After receiving the forum summary report, the work groups will reconvene to help advance this initiative and invite others to join in future work group sessions.

Each attendee received a custom forum bag containing masks, a sticky note booklet and hand sanitizers. Local and state service vendors provided additional educational information and resources which included Halifax County Health Department representatives Betty Macon and T. Turner, health educators; Kathleen Robinson of Lighthouse Ministry; Elvelon Mason, Lay Health adviser and retired educator of Warren County Retired School Personnel; Sonja Jarrell, Lay Health adviser with the Roanoke Valley Breast Cancer coalition; Dave Peterson with Trillium Health Resources; Ruby Gerald with the North Carolina Central University Health Hub accompanied by the NCCU Research teams; the ECU Health team provided COVID-19 and flu immunizations in addition to a health screening and education on how to access the electronic record — My Chart.

Additional information vendors included Kysha Gary of Northampton County Health Department, Doris Davis with Concerned Citizens of Tillery, and Lisa Paulin with the North Carolina Central University Community Engagement Alliance.

Others on the program included Community Fellows Shaniqua Hockaday Harvey and Monique Turner serving as registrars, Edna Davis Brown, president of the Gregory B Davis Foundation, and the hostesses from South Weldon Chapter #15 of the Order of Eastern Stars, President Cynthia Putney.

The RVBCC provided door prizes of $50 Walmart cards to four lucky winners. Robinson of Lighthouse Ministries said this was, “a needed program and an excellent start.” Organizers agree and look forward to the excellent work ahead that will benefit all communities because “Our Health Matters.” For more information, email [email protected].

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