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Grant helps ECC improve community health

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Ida Arrington, left, checks Donia Simmons’ blood pressure during a Community Health Coach class at Edgecombe Community College.

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From Contributed Reports

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

With so many people in the area struggling to maintain healthy lifestyles, Edgecombe Community College is offering students a chance to help their neighbors to better health.

Thanks to a $25,000 grant through Durham-based Manpower Development Corp., which develops projects to reduce poverty, the college began offering tuition-free Community Health Coach classes this year.

“We’ve had 40 students complete the class so far,” said Kathy Webb, coordinator of lifelong learning at ECC and one of the grant facilitators. “With the grant, we can pay for their tuition and supplies.”

In addition to tuition, Edgecombe Community College also is supplying Community Health Coach graduates under the grant program with blood pressure cuffs and other items to help them in the field.

“It’s unreasonable for us to expect students to go out in the community and show people what a proper blood pressure is or how to eat healthier if they don’t have the tools,” Webb said.

In addition, the grant is helping fund a stipend for this year’s community health coaches who conduct some type of organized activity to show area residents good health habits. With the proper documentation and setting, students can earn up to $300 if they complete three different community events that increase awareness for healthier lifestyles.

The college began offering its Community Health Coach curriculum about three years ago, and about 30 students a year have completed the 100-hour class that focuses on disease prevention, obesity, and access to care.

“The grant has helped increase the class size,” Webb said. “We’re hoping the stipend will help get students out in the community more.”

Edgecombe County ranks 97th out of 100 counties in North Carolina for a healthy population, according to the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps report published annually by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

A quarter of the county lives below the poverty level, and 35 percent of Edgecombe County residents have a body mass index above 30.

The Community Health Coach class already has paid off for numerous Edgecombe Community College students, said Mary Stocks, chairwoman of Early Childhood Education at ECC and one of the grant’s facilitators.

One graduate works for the Edgecombe County Department of Social Services, using the skills she learned in the Community Health Coach class by visiting local residents in the community to show them healthier ways to live.

“In addition, several churches in the community have indicated that they would like their members to be health coaches,” Stocks said.

The Community Health Coach tuition grant is phase three of a larger Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust grant that also helped fund the College’s Natural Playscape on the Tarboro campus.

In addition, the grant has supported community gardens at Pattillo Middle School and Iglesia Internacional Principe De Paz church in Tarboro.

Two Community Health Coach classes begin in January. A morning class on the Tarboro campus starts on Jan. 22 and meets Tuesdays and Thursdays. An afternoon class on the Rocky Mount campus begins Jan. 28 and meets Mondays and Wednesdays.

To learn more, contact norvillej@edgecombe.edu or call 823-5166, ext. 202.

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