Education

UNCA awarded funding for COVID-19

Photograph by Annie Spratt

Chapel Hill – The UNC Board of Governors announces that the University of North Carolina Asheville will receive $610,000 in funding, through its recently announced partnership with the N.C. Policy Collaboratory at UNC-Chapel Hill, to help fight COVID-19.

The announcement was made during today’s meeting of the Board’s Committee on Historically Minority-Serving Institutions (HMSIs), and follows an earlier announcement that six UNC System institutions – Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, N.C. A&T State University, North Carolina Central University, UNC Pembroke and Winston-Salem State University – received $1 million each to fight the spread of COVID-19.

“We must continue to make the appropriate investments in institutions like UNC Asheville. This funding will not only help boost the university, but it will effectively help a number of communities, cities, and surrounding counties in the entire mountain region of our state through various projects,” said Darrell Allison, chair of committee.

UNC Asheville’s project proposal encompasses three specific components:

To initiate a WNC University Health Ambassador program to engage campus communities in rapidly adopting safe, evidence-based practices to establish a culture of safety on six regional campuses in the mountains.

To research and reduce the impact of social isolation on well-being by rapidly escalating the roll out of the Social Bridging Initiative. Designed to increase connection of socially-isolated individuals, especially older adults, the Social Bridging Initiative utilizes trained wellness volunteers to link people to community resources to reduce isolation, lower risk of COVID 19 infection, increase access to telehealth services and increase wellness through access to programming and requested resources.

To conduct a statewide study of comorbidity for individuals who have died from COVID-19.

“For the better part of a month, Board of Governor Darrell Allison and I have been discussing ways to engage our UNC System campuses to provide impactful research and outreach within our western rural communities,” said Jeff Warren, executive director of the N.C. Policy Collaboratory. “In short order, Chancellor Cable identified three COVID-related studies, in partnership with other western campuses and MAHEC (Mountain Area Health Education Center), that will provide critical data on the impact of COVID-19 in the region and the state as well as a goal to reduce risks and rates of infection.”

UNC Asheville will partner with the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) on numerous aspects of the project. The NC Center for Health and Wellness (NCCHW) at UNC Asheville will lead the research and evaluation elements of this project in collaboration with UNC Asheville faculty from UNC Asheville’s Applied Social Sciences program. The project is also being supported by other members of the faculty, affiliates of the university and undergraduate researchers from the health and wellness, sociology, political science, economics and statistics sectors of UNCA.

“We are deeply grateful for Board of Governors member Darrell Allison’s leadership in support of UNC Asheville’s excellence in public health research. UNC Asheville has a deeply-rooted tradition of applied research among our faculty and students with more than 65% of our undergraduates completing original research before they graduate,” said UNC Asheville Chancellor Nancy J. Cable. “These initiatives, in partnership with MAHEC, align with the University’s mission and further amplifies the important role of the North Carolina Center for Health and Wellness at UNC Asheville as a state hub for innovative, evidence-based healthy-living initiatives that work to prevent chronic conditions and reduce disability among all North Carolinians.”

The Collaboratory recently received $29 million, under a $1.5 billion coronavirus relief package approved last month by state legislators, to study treatment, community testing and prevention, and the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19. The Collaboratory’s COVID-19 research projects will provide new data and information to state lawmakers and policymakers to help guide the state’s response.

The N.C. Policy Collaboratory was created by the N.C. General Assembly in 2016 to facilitate the dissemination of the research and policy expertise of the UNC System for practical use by State and local government. The COVID-19 research initiatives conducted at all campuses across the UNC System in conjunction with the N.C. Policy Collaboratory must be completed by December 30, 2020 per federal COVID-19 funding requirements established by the CARES Act.