After hearing from nonprofit and governmental leaders throughout the region, together with information gathered during four grant-making cycles and with a growing body of scientific evidence in support of social determinants of health’s impact on wellness, Nantahala Health Foundation’s Board of Directors recently announced a comprehensive update to the organization’s funding priorities.

With these newly defined priority areas in place, Nantahala Health Foundation plans to launch its next grantmaking initiative March 1. Nonprofit and local government leaders working to build a healthy, thriving community are encouraged to share their ideas by applying at NantahalaHealthFoundation.org.

In developing their four strategic priority areas, Nantahala Health Foundation leaders embraced a lifecycle approach, said Nantahala Health Foundation Board Chair David Garrett.

“To arrive in this world on the best possible footing, children must first rely on their parents. To provide that support, these adults and their entire support system must be healthy and possess attainable hopes and aspirations for the future,” said Garrett.

Maintaining one’s health from birth to end of life starts with optimal socioeconomic factors, followed by the ability to make and maintain healthy behavioral decisions for mind and body, he said. Additionally, access to quality health services provided by professionals plays a significant role in one’s complete health picture.

Within their Access to Healthcare funding priority area, Nantahala Health Foundation has expressed a commitment to supporting innovative initiatives that address four focus areas, especially for those in communities with current barriers to care:

• General health and wellness.

• Specialty healthcare services.

• Behavioral healthcare services.

• Dental health services.

“Next, a newborn immediately begins to learn, first from his/her parents and their support system, followed by formal education designed to create individuals who can both contribute to and enhance society in a meaningful way and, in turn, enjoy many years of productive fulfillment,” Bailey said. “Having access to education through a variety of avenues later in life further augments health and wellness in one’s golden years.”

Within their education priority area, Nantahala Health Foundation is committed to supporting innovative initiatives that address these focus areas:

• Early childhood learning.

• K-12 formal and informal education.

• Post-secondary formal education.

• Adult continuing educational opportunities, specifically those designed to enhance health and wellness.

“When an individual’s educational aspirations have been met, access to a fulfilling professional/technical career should follow,” Bailey said. “As children outgrow the protective physical and economic shelter provided by their parents, the employment they find must meet their basic needs – safe housing with functioning, affordable utilities; access to healthy, nutritious food; community safety and support – followed by its ability to increase individual wealth and provide security for the future.”

Within the Employment and Economic Security priority area, Nantahala Health Foundation is committed to supporting innovative initiatives that address these focus areas:

• Economic development.

• Job readiness and retention.

• Housing stability and safety.

• Access to nutritional food security.

“We understand that improving regional health outcomes through our first three strategic focus areas will take time,” said Garrett. “We further understand that adapting to this upstream ideal of building a healthy community will require bolstering the human and technological infrastructure of many WNC service providers.

“It also may require addressing fundamental needs within our communities that serve as building blocks for success in other areas. By first acknowledging the existence of these truths, only then can we act to remove barriers and alleviate their negative impacts on our community,” he continued.

To that end, Nantahala Health Foundation has voiced a commitment to support organizational and community capacity building as identified by nonprofit and governmental service providers facing and/or addressing these focus areas:

• Organizational leadership and professional development.

• Organizational infrastructure shortfalls.

• Increasing affordable and workforce housing.

• Community nutrition supply chains.

• Access to high-functioning utilities, specifically broadband.

• Pandemics and other highly volatile health crises.

• Transportation solutions, specifically those designed to enhance health and wellness.

For information about the NHF mission to work with nonprofit service providers and governmental agencies to improve social determinants of health throughout the region, or to offer input about regional needs related to social determinants of health, visit nantahalahealthfoundation.org or connect with them on Facebook and Instagram.