N.C. Center for Health and Wellness at UNC Asheville Awarded Three-Year $1.2 Million Grant

[Note:  NCCHW also was awarded $610,000 from the UNC Board of Governors HMSI Committee to lead the research and evaluation elements of project examining the impact of social isolation on well-being during COVID-19 and a statewide study of comorbidity for individuals who have died from COVID-19. Read more at https://www.unca.edu/events-and-news/stories/unc-board-of-governors-hmsi-committee-announces-the-award-of-610000-in-funding-to-unc-asheville-to-fight-covid-19/]

The North Carolina Center for Health & Wellness (NCCHW) at UNC Asheville has received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living to extend its evidence-based falls prevention programs partnership and network across the state. The Integrated Networks Grant follows a 2017 award of $600,000 to NCCHW which expanded access and utilization of the programs across 18 counties in Western North Carolina.

The award comes at a time when NCCHW’s Healthy Aging NC remains committed to supporting the agencies across NC keep older adults safe in their homes, particularly during COVID-19.

“NCCHW’s newest project, to collaborate with NC’s Area Agencies on Aging, is a logical and timely step towards addressing the social and behavioral drivers of health that affect our large aging population. Healthcare reform is changing the landscape for many transitional allied health service providers,” said Amy Joy Lanou, executive director of NCCHW and professor of health and wellness at UNC Asheville. “NCCHW houses the statewide hub for evidence-based healthy aging programs and is an innovative leader for the network. We are positioned to demonstrate the value of Area Agencies on Aging not just in supporting falls prevention efforts, but in supporting the social and behavioral drivers of health. This grant will advance our work from supporting the implementation of programs, to driving innovation to sustain critical services.”

Through the three-year cooperative agreement, NCCHW’s Healthy Aging NC statewide integrated network of evidence-based falls prevention program partners will strengthen its work to (1) facilitate older adult access to services that address the social and behavioral determinants of health; and (2) increase participation of older adults in the A Matter of Balance (AMOB) and Tai Chi for Arthritis for Fall Prevention (TCA/FP) evidence-based falls prevention programs. A large focus of this grant will include developing the infrastructure to engage health insurers in contracting for payment of the social and behavioral services offered by NCCHW’s network of Area Agencies on Aging across North Carolina.

The program objectives include assessing information technology needs, creating new closed-loop referral systems, formalizing a statewide single point of contact business entity and reimbursement pathways, enrolling 6,000 new participants in evidence-based falls prevention programs and measuring increases in self-efficacy among program completers.

Since its beginning in 2016, NCCHW’s Healthy Aging NC has enrolled 8,967 participants in falls prevention programs across NC, with more than 90% demonstrating improvements in various self-efficacy measures relevant to falls prevention.

“The North Carolina Center for Health and Wellness (NCCHW) has become a vital partner for our agency and for North Carolina’s aging network. Their innovative leadership and dedicated staff have provided the structure and support needed to expand our capacity in working with healthcare providers,” said Nicole Hiegl, Aging Director at the High Country Area Agency on Aging in Boone. We have worked in tandem to develop the framework and ensure success in building referral pathways for our evidence-based falls prevention classes and interventions. Additionally, our agency has assisted in developing guidance and tools to support and expand the TCA/FP program by serving as the TCA/FP Training Academy for Western North Carolina. I am thrilled to learn that the NCCHW is a recipient of the 2020 ACL Falls Prevention grant and look forward to continuing our work together.”

NCCHW’s Healthy Aging NC staff have worked with the Area Agencies on Aging to ensure older adults continue to have access to falls prevention and disease management programs during COVID-19, such as online Tai Chi for Arthritis for Fall Prevention, the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program plus phone calls, self-directed Walk with Ease, and resources for how to engage in safe physical activity at home. Many adults join these programs not only for the falls prevention or chronic condition management, but to connect with other adults; these modifications have enabled partners to continue outreach during these in times of social isolation for so many.

If you or anyone you know might benefit from one of these Healthy Aging NC programs, please use the website referral at: https://healthyagingnc.com/make-a-referral/.