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Investing In Community and Wellness at UNC-Pembroke

By Laura Eberhard | May 30, 2019 | Community Health

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(Brittany Chess, a Graduate Student within the Professional School of Counseling at UNC Pembroke pictured above

Rural counties are especially vulnerable to health disparities, and Robeson County, marked by high levels of poverty and higher than average levels of insured individuals, is no exception. That’s why Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) continues our relentless commitment to improving health outcomes in communities across our state.

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP) is uniquely positioned to help move the needle in Southeastern North Carolina through their training of medical professionals, community initiatives and innovative programs at the College of Health and Sciences. For this reason, Blue Cross NC and its Healthy Blue plan have invested $775,000 to establish The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s new Community and Wellness Institute of Southeastern NC.  

Brittany Chess, a Graduate Student within the Professional School of Counseling at UNCP, connected with Blue Cross NC to share her outlook on the Community and Wellness Institute’s impact in Robeson County.

Q: How do you see Blue Cross NC’s investment impacting UNC Pembroke’s students currently, and in the future?

Chess: Blue Cross NC’s investment will impact UNC Pembroke tremendously. One major way is by providing students with real-life experiences. UNC Pembroke values community engagement and the type of support that Blue Cross NC is providing is in line with the university’s mission to serve the region. Students will be able to connect with communities and schools.

While at UNC Pembroke, I have been able to assist in bringing members of the community together to discuss improving health. We hosted a Community Health and Wellness Symposium, where we were able to bring in 120 members of the community, along with faculty, staff and students. The community members included education professionals and health care practitioners.

I was given the chance to see health and socio-economic disparities that exist in rural communities nationwide in a similar previous project at UNC Pembroke. Now, with support from Blue Cross NC, UNC Pembroke will be able to do even more.

Q: Why is it important to invest in our rural counties like Robeson County?

Chess: It is important to invest in rural counties because they need the most assistance, and establishing connections between the education system and health care practitioners is especially useful to rural communities. In my opinion, this population is often overlooked and not given the proper resources. As health practitioners, I believe it is our ethical duty to support those in our community. There is so much potential here, and investing in Robeson County will help us to expand on existing talent and our commitment to make a difference.

Q: How is UNC Pembroke uniquely positioned to help Robeson County?

Chess: Since UNC Pembroke is a huge part of this community, it can act as a bridge in connecting the community. Collaborating with the local communities and schools in the county has shaped me greatly as a counselor-in-training. I see Blue Cross NC’s support allowing UNC Pembroke to become more engaged in Robeson County’s health and wellness initiatives. UNCP departments, faculty, and students that have been engaged in Robeson County for a long time, but through the support of the College of Health Sciences, this engagement will be more powerful.

I see the Community Health and Wellness Institute of Southeastern NC impacting both UNC Pembroke students and the community greatly. Supported by evidence-based research, the initiatives of the Institute can turn our ideas into reality to truly move the needle on health outcomes in our region.