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BOONE — The High Country Collaborative (HCC) has received an additional two years of funding to continue work on the Improving Community Outcomes for Maternal and Child Health (ICO4MCH) grant. The HCC is focused on improving birth outcomes, reducing infant mortality and improving health of children ages 0-5 in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Watauga and Wilkes counties.

The HCC will receive oversight and funding from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health, Women’s and Children’s Health Section.

Since the inception of the ICO4MCH grant in April 2016, the HCC has implemented three evidence-based strategies to improve health outcomes in the multi-county region. These strategies include the promotion of and access to reproductive life planning, tobacco prevention and cessation, and Triple P (Positive Parenting Program). The additional two years of funding will also support the Family Connects pilot project in Watauga County.

The HCC has been successful in increasing access to reproductive life planning, training local providers in reproductive life planning, tobacco cessation counseling and equipping parents in the region with the skills and confidence to manage family challenges on their own. These accomplishments have been possible due to partnerships with an array of stakeholders in the region, including families, health care providers and community agencies.

In partnership with the Children’s Council, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System and Blue Ridge Pediatrics, the Family Connects program will be piloted in Watauga County.

“This grant award supports our efforts to build an innovative and high-quality early childhood system that begins at birth,” Crystal Kelly, director of strategic initiatives at the Children’s Council, said in a statement. “Family Connects is a universal family connection and referral strategy which is available to all families within a community, regardless of income, socioeconomic status, or demographic characteristics. This strategy is the foundation of a well-coordinated system of care for families.”

The grant will help grow Family Connects by funding costs of clinical and marketing components of the program, such as covering nurse time costs. The pilot program’s goal is to reach as many families as possible through a nurse home visit which helps to connect families of newborns to needed resources in the community. Family Connects in Watauga County started prior to the ICO4MCH grant as a program called Nurtured Beginnings, which is transitioning to expand the program and serve all new mothers.

Additional funding is provided by the Children’s Council of Watauga County, Appalachian Regional HealthCare Foundation and Watauga County.

The infant mortality rate is a key indicator of the health of women and young children. In the state of North Carolina, the average infant mortality rate for the years 2012-2016 is 7.2 deaths per 1,000 live births. Among the five-county region addressed by the HCC, the combined infant mortality rate for 2012-2016 is 15.3 percent lower than that of the state at 6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births.

For more information on the ICO4MCH grant, contact Jennifer Tyson at 828-264-4995 ext. 3130 or jennifer.tyson@apphealth.com.

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