Blue Cross, UNC Partners in Health Initiative

The Primary Care Rural Advancement Program aims to help prepare the Rockingham County region to expand its ability to provide health care in the rural community. (UNC photo/Jon Gardiner ’98)

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina will invest $800,000 to address a need for better access to health care in Rockingham County, in partnership with UNC’s School of Medicine.

The school’s new Primary Care Rural Advancement Program is aimed at increasing patient-centered primary care and recruiting more residents to enter health care professions in the southeastern N.C. county and the neighboring area.

Along with UNC Health Care’s purchase of the former Morehead Memorial Hospital (now UNC Rockingham Health Care) last year, the program aims to help prepare the region to expand its ability to provide health care in the rural community.

“We want people to have access to high-quality primary care no matter where in North Carolina they call home,” said Dr. Patrick Conway, president and CEO of Blue Cross NC. “This investment will help make sure primary care physicians get the resources, education and training they need to practice in rural communities.”

The N.C. General Assembly is supporting the program with additional funding.

The 2016 Rockingham County Community Health Assessment Report states that the county has the lowest rate of primary care physicians per 10,000 residents at 4.7, compared to neighboring counties and to the state average of 7.6.

“Thanks to this generous gift from Blue Cross North Carolina and support from the General Assembly, we will be able to enhance patient-centered primary care services in Rockingham County,” said Dr. Cristy Page ’96 (’02 MD, MPH), chair of UNC Family Medicine. “The funding will help us work with the community to better understand its health care needs, while developing a collaborative approach to meeting those needs with our local community partners. We aim to build a training pipeline for primary care and to work with practices to improve quality of care, through initiatives like making tele-behavioral health available in the community through the UNC Physician’s Network.”

The investment is part of Blue Cross NC’s larger commitment to contribute $50 million toward community health initiatives in 2018 and is partially funded through $40 million in tax savings generated through the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.


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