MAHEC in the News
Media articles from 2019
Healthcare Trends, Healthcare Needs
You may not give much thought to the medical field in Western North Carolina unless you or a loved one are sick. But the local medical industry should not be taken for granted—it has a large financial impact throughout the region.
The Western North Carolina region is following many national trends in healthcare employment. Jeffery E. Heck, MD, CEO of MAHEC, shares that the biggest trends in healthcare practice are toward specialization and urbanization. "Unfortunately, what we need here in Western North Carolina are more general practitioners, like those trained in family medicine, who can provide a full spectrum of primary care for the people in their communities." [read full story]
Moms-to-Be Teach Each Other in Monthly Group Prenatal Visits
In a big room full of moms-to-be, pregnant women check each other’s blood pressure and weight, a nurse-midwife measures their growing bellies, and they all join a seated circle for two hours of candid talk about what to expect when you’re expecting. But in a more relaxed group setting, women open up and conversation flows beyond vital signs, weight gain and due dates.
Pregnant women at the clinic can opt to join a group session for their monthly checkups instead of the traditional one-on-one office visits with their doctor that are usually recommended. Kailee Morel Alvarez had never heard of group prenatal visits when she learned she was pregnant last summer. But the 21-year-old and her husband were sold after their first visit to Mountain Area Health Education Center’s OB-GYN clinic. [read full story]
Nursing Students Test Virtual Reality Simulation Technology at MAHEC
Students in Western Carolina University’s School of Nursing tested a new virtual reality simulation technology Tuesday, April 9, at the Mountain Area Health Education Center’s Biltmore Campus.
WCU developed the innovative training program in partnership with Learning Lab 360 and the Mountain Area Health Education Center as part of a $2.7 million federal grant designed to support community-based primary care clinical experiences for nurses.
“Using virtual reality in clinical education allows learners to be involved in real-life experiences without real-life consequences,” said Elaine Alexander, MAHEC simulation center director. [read full story]
'Sistas' Aim to Reduce Disparities in the Delivery Room
Rates of maternal and infant mortality during childbirth are disproportionately higher among African American women in Buncombe County and nationwide. That stark reality is what prompted a group of women in Asheville to organize and start a doula service for women of color and for women without the financial means.
“The fact that racism plays a role in that set everybody on fire in wanting to address specifically the disparity in infant mortality,” said Amanda Brickhouse-Murphy, a nurse midwife at the Mountain Area Health Education Center.
With the assistance of a grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, MAHEC and the organization Mothering Asheville helped launch Sistas Caring 4 Sistas. Six women completed their doula training in 2016. The nonprofit primarily serves patients on Medicaid. [listen to full story]
Buncombe County Students Learn About Opioid Crisis in Creative Way
Health officials found a unique way to deliver a strong message to students about the dangers of opioids. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, from 2010-2016, 10.4 percent of unintentional opioid-related deaths in North Carolina were people 24 years old and younger.
In order to educate about this crisis, the Mountain Area Health Education Center, or MAHEC, launched the play, 'It's Just a Pill,' earlier this month. It takes a creative approach in educating kids and teachers about the risks associated with opioids.
"It's better to talk about it at a younger age because our minds are more moldable at this age," said Shanzay Bashir, a sixth grader. [see full story]
Children’s Musical Explores Opioid Epidemic
Melody Hays understands pain. As she struggled with myasthenia gravis and rheumatoid arthritis, unable to leave her bed for 10 years, she pondered how she could make a difference in the world and help others.
Hays eventually regained mobility and, after seeing a presentation by Dr. Blake Fagan of the Mountain Area Health Education Center, she dreamed that she asked him, “what are we doing for children?” The next morning, she woke up inspired to write a children’s musical. Hays is now a healthcare education planner at MAHEC.
On March 8, It’s Just a Pill premiered at A-B Tech’s Ferguson Auditorium. The 55-minute musical confronts the opioid epidemic from the perspective of a 10-year-old girl. Following the premiere, the play will go on tour and will be seen by at least 4,000 students. [read full story]
Want To Find A Key To Unlocking Good Health? Look To Communities
There are many rewarding aspects of my job. One that is particularly gratifying is that I have the privilege of serving as chairman of the independent Blue Cross NC Foundation...In this role, I have the opportunity to gain even more insight into the health challenges facing our state, as well as the efforts on the ground to tackle these challenges head-on. In Asheville, a group of women – who themselves were marginalized by a health care system that didn’t reflect them or their experiences – have trained to become doulas to support the women of their neighborhood and to face racial disparities in infant mortality head-on. These doulas are now employed by a local OB/GYN practice and their influence is shaping not only the birth experience for women whose babies are at risk for higher mortality, but also the policies and practices in the health care system overall. [read full story]
Local Leaders Tackle Health Impacts of Structural Racism
“Racism has an impact on health, and we want to look at the bigger picture,” says Ameena Batada, associate professor of health and wellness at UNC Asheville. To accomplish this, Batada has joined forces with Je’Wana Grier-McEachin, executive director of the Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement, and Jill Fromewick, a research scientist at the Mountain Area Health Education Center.
Armed with a three-year Interdisciplinary Research Leaders fellowship from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the team aims to connect directly with rural African-Americans in Western North Carolina in order to deconstruct and combat the ways that racism has contributed to the myriad health challenges they face. Structural racism, notes Fromewick, can discourage people from seeking medical care — and hamper the effective delivery of that care. It’s essential, she maintains, for providers to understand the health beliefs, cultural practices and needs in the communities they serve. [read full story]
Let’s Join Forces to Create a Truly Healthy Community
Guest commentary by Dr. Daniel Frayne. There’s a shift underway that’s causing health care providers to move beyond the walls of their clinics and hospitals and into the community to better support their patients’ well-being.
For a century, our health care system focused on treating disease. More recently, we’ve started emphasizing preventive care and access to primary care. In 2017, the U.S. spent $3.5 trillion on health care — far more than any other developed country. Yet our overall life expectancy as well as infant mortality, maternal mortality, disease and disability rates are far worse. Why?
Four words: social determinants of health. [read full story]
Rise in Immunization Exemptions Threatens Community Health, Doctors Say
When Dr. Jennifer Mullendore told the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners last October that immunization exemptions for local kindergartners had jumped again, she didn’t know that at least one local child was already sick with chickenpox.
By the end of that month, 28 children had contracted the illness. The eventual total of 37 students (all of them unimmunized) and three community members diagnosed with the virus constituted the most in the state since the varicella vaccine became available in 1995.
According to Alice Elio, school health program manager at the Mountain Area Health Education Center, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers five or more related cases of chickenpox to constitute an outbreak. [read full story]
Local Nonprofits Tackle Social Determinants of Health
Stopping to talk with friends, volunteers and clients, Ali Casparian gradually makes her way toward a table in a corner of the room as a small crowd starts to gather for tonight’s cooking demonstration. Casparian is the founder of Bounty & Soul, a Black Mountain-based nonprofit that provides a range of services to at-risk and food-insecure community members.
A planned partnership with the Mountain Area Health Education Center and Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry, slated to launch very soon, will enable Bounty & Soul to expand its approach to food insecurity to include the many social factors that also influence health. ABCCM’s crisis ministry in Candler will host one of Bounty & Soul’s food markets, and MAHEC will offer community members free health counseling and other services there. [read full story]
Emergency CDC Funding Beefs up WNC Response to Opioid Crisis
Over $660,000 — a portion of $155 million in emergency funding from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — is flowing into Western North Carolina to fund health programs that aim to ease the strain of opioid addiction and overdose.
In 2017, 1,884 people died of accidental opioid overdoses in North Carolina, while over 4,000 overdoses were reversed through the community use of naloxone kits in the state.
Cracking down on drug users isn’t a viable solution to the problem, experts say. That leaves harm-reduction efforts and addiction treatment as two of the main strategies public health agencies are using to address the crisis. Buncombe County, Haywood County and the Mountain Area Health Education Center are deploying federal funds as part of that effort. [read full story]
Local Doctors Help Spread Medication-Assisted Opioid Treatment in North Carolina
New federal funding is giving more mountain doctors special training to help opioid-addicted patients.The grant money allows them to treat those patients with medication.
"There's a lot of enthusiasm,” Dr. Blake Fagan, chief education officer at MAHEC, said. Fagan is enthusiastic about helping patients suffering from opioid addiction.
So, now Fagan is seeing that primary care doctors in residency — all over North Carolina — are qualified to help treat opioid addiction with medicine. Doctors are required by federal law to take a training course before getting a license to prescribe Suboxone. [see full story]
ABCCM, Bounty & Soul, and MAHEC Create New Collaboration for Community Health
Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry, Bounty & Soul, and the Mountain Area Health Education Center are collaborating on a new program to address food insecurity and related health risks by bringing Bounty & Soul’s mobile food markets and educational programming to ABCCM sites in 2019. The first of these weekly markets will launch in January at ABCCM’s Hominy Valley Crisis Center, which is co-located with the MAHEC Family Health Center at Enka/Candler in Candler, NC.
“Here in Western North Carolina, we struggle with higher rates of poverty, hunger, and chronic diseases such as diabetes,” shares MAHEC’s CEO Jeff Heck, MD. “We’re excited to partner with ABCCM and Bounty & Soul to help more families access nutritious food and health education to prevent and even reverse these diseases.” [read full story]
DHHS, Mountain Area Health Education Center to Train Next Generation of NC Doctors to Treat Opioid Use Disorder
NC DHHS is partnering with the MAHEC to increase the number of doctors who graduate from North Carolina residency programs with the training necessary to provide medication-assisted treatment for patients with opioid use disorder through a CDC grant awarded to the state. "We need to fight the opioid crisis on every possible front," said DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, MD. "This training will be an important addition to the extensive work already being done across the state, but there are still far too many North Carolinians who don’t have access to the opioid treatment they need."
Last year, 1,884 people in North Carolina died of an unintentional opioid overdose, and 5,848 North Carolinians were taken to emergency departments for opioid overdoses. CDC grant funds will provide critical training to physicians to increase the number of doctors who can treat individuals within their practice. [read full story]
Opioid Town Hall in North Carolina: Stopping the Growth of the Addiction Crisis
Sinclair Broadcast Group and WLOS hosted the third installment in the ongoing national series of town halls to raise awareness of the country's most deadly drug epidemic. Eric Bolling moderated the event as part of the "Our Voice, Our Future" series.
The panel of guests featured North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, State Senator Jim Davis, Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed and Melinda Ramage, the co-founder of Project CARA, a program that helps pregnant women access treatment for substance abuse.
Guests focused on what is being done in North Carolina and nationally to combat the crisis through public education and prevention programs, improved medical and addiction treatment and new tools for the law enforcement community. [see full story]
NC AHEC Trainings Help Put Recovery Within Reach
In 2017, North Carolina’s drug overdose death rate rose higher than any other state except for Indiana, primarily due to opioids. To address this public health crisis, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both recommend prescribing medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for patients with opioid use disorders “given the strong evidence of effectiveness for such treatments.” Despite its proven efficacy, less than 10 percent of physicians in the U.S. have waivers to prescribe buprenorphine.
To address this critical need, the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has contracted with MAHEC to provide MAT waiver training to medical residency programs across the state through August 31, 2019. This work is being funded through NC DHHS’s award from the CDC. [read full story]
City Council Members Meet with MAHEC
The Mountain Area Health Education Center says it hopes to enhance its partnership with local governments to foster a unified, collaborative approach to improve health in Western North Carolina.
On Dec. 11, while parts of the ground remained obscured after a major snowstorm that ended the day before, MAHEC representatives met with Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer and Asheville City Council members Julie Mayfield and Vijay Kapoor.
The collaboration would include local businesses, nonprofits and government institutions and would foster women’s health to promote healthy pregnancies, leading to healthy children and families and, ultimately, success in school. [read full story]
Free Seminars Offered to Rising Juniors, Seniors in McDowell
Rising juniors and seniors in McDowell, Mitchell, Yancey, Madison, and Swain counties are encouraged to apply for a free summer camp focusing on paths to successful health careers. This residential camp will be held June 23-26 in Asheville with students housed at UNCA. There will be daily workshops, networking opportunities, and presentations at UNCA and MAHEC centered on healthcare careers.
Students will experience MAHEC’s new state-of-the-art Simulation Center and deliver a baby, practice CPR and intubation, administer medications, monitor “real” patients, and more. They will shadow in MAHEC family medicine, ob/gyn, and sports medicine. They will see real patients, work with real physicians, and dissect a heart with an experienced cardiac care practitioner.
[read full story]