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Community Highlights

Regional: Highlights From Appalachia

In January, more than 30 public, private and nonprofit stakeholders from Appalachia and beyond took part in the Appalachia Health Investment Design Forum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond's branch in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Forum was a part of efforts to spur private investment in the social determinants of health in Appalachia.

According to the Center for Disease Control, “Conditions in the places where people live, learn, work and play affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes. These conditions are known as social determinants of health (SDOH).” There is growing agreement that more work is needed to get at the root causes of poor health, such as poverty, inadequate housing or insufficient transportation access. A recently released Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) study outlines the most pressing health issues in Appalachia. These and other health disparities have been well documented by ARC, and many efforts are under way to improve health behaviors and health care access in our rural communities.

The purpose of the gathering was to invite top regional leaders who are currently investing in rural projects, along with national investors who want to know how to better connect to investment deals in Appalachia, to an intensive two-day exercise where they helped to develop roadmaps that connect Appalachian communities with diverse investments. These investments advance social determinants of health, provide investment return and build capacity for future reinvestment.

The social determinants of health in Appalachia have the potential to attract coordinated public and private investment. During the Charlotte meeting, a cross-sector group worked on mapping the links between rural community leaders and investors, and identifying barriers that hamper investment. Follow-up work will consider the capacity of community institutions to contribute investment-ready projects to the public and/or private funding pipeline.

Partners in the program included the ARC and Greater Clark Foundation of Kentucky, along with thought leadership from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Rural Philanthropy WoRx, Cassiopeia Foundation and the Thompson Charitable Foundation.

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