A proposed initiative from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services was given a five-year, $6 million award to improve digital inclusion for agricultural workers in the state.
The department announced on Sept. 27 that its Office of Rural Health would receive the award from the National Institutes of Health.
The office is collaborating with East Carolina University and N.C. State University on the initiative, which focuses on digital health services and emergency communication.
The funding came from the NIH’s Common Fund Community Partnerships to Advance Science for Society program to help community organizations achieve health research. In the past five years, the program has distributed 26 awards totaling $171 million to community organizations.
Natalie Rivera, the project's manager, said the initiative has two overall goals — improve telehealth opportunities and create accessible broadband services for agricultural workers.
“Essentially the purpose is to really transform agriculture workers' access to affordable, reliable internet in order to enhance telehealth models and reduce health disparities,” she said.
Rivera said her team plans to establish a health equity research advisory board of state and national partners and an Agricultural Workers Advisory Board.
She said her team will be providing technology to allow members of the Agricultural Workers Advisory Board to participate regularly in virtual meetings.
Rivera said that there will also be listening sessions that will allow those working on the project to hear from community members.