Prompted by data articulating dramatic disparities between African-American and white communities in Asheville and Buncombe County in respect to both health status and access to services, the Buncombe County African-American Leadership Council asked Dr. Charles Blair to pull together a plan for achieving health parity in Western North Carolina. In July 2002, completing the task, Dr. Blair traveled to Washington, DC to attend the National Leadership summit for Elimination of Health Disparity. Dr. Blair learned that regardless of income and status, a very real disparity exists between the health care received by African-American and White communities. In conversations and meeting, Dr. Blair learned of current programs, strategies, and recommendations being espoused and implemented for achieving health parity.
ABIPA promotes economic, social, and health parity achievement for African Americans and other people of color in Buncombe County through advocacy, education, research, and community partnerships.
ABIPA offers holistic approach to addressing issues of health while focusing on four major areas that impact our ability to successfully establish health parity: education, social, economics and physical health. Furthermore, public policies and cultural competencies must be enacted to pro-actively eliminate disparities between the diminished qualities of care. We are clear the community must address the health and quality-of-life as experienced by African-Americans in Buncombe County, North Carolina to enrich the life experience of the whole community.
The Birth of ABIPA
In February, 2004, the Asheville-Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement (ABIPA) was formally incorporated in the State of North Carolina, and initial tasks of recruiting a Board of directors and a broad-based Advisory Council, articulating the vision, mission and core values of the new organization, and developing a preliminary Strategic Plan were initiated with energy and optimism. State and federal tax exempt status has been received. ABIPA was governed by a five-person Executive Board of Directors, who acted in regular consultation with an Advisory Council of approximately thirty service professionals and community representatives.
State Agencies and Western North Carolina Arms of Government: Armed with this information, Dr. Blair and Joseph Gunnels visited the NC Office of Minority Health and over the next year they gathered more detailed data on levels of disparity from infant mortality to prostate cancer and heart disease, and met regularly to discuss their findings with this office and various other arms of government including the Asheville City Council, the Buncombe County Commissioners, and members of the Western North Carolina Delegation to the General Assembly.
Medical Institutions and Providers: In August, 2002 a meeting took place in Asheville, attended by the leadership of the Buncombe County Medical Society and its Achieving Parity Committee, the Buncombe County Health Center, and Health Partners, a coalition of local nonprofit service providers. Over the next year this coalition of local health professionals met regularly to explore practical means of reducing local disparities in health status, in accordance with the approach outlined by Dr. Blair. Mission Hospital’s Operations Leadership.
African-American Community and Faith-Based Organizations: African-American community groups such as Eagle-Market Street Development Corporation and Black Faith group, such as the Mt. Zion Project, Nurturing Asheville Families, became collaborators with ABIPA along with Minority community leaders.
Contracted Relationships: ABIPA has a relationship with the NC Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities through which a contract was received for the services of an AmeriCorps Member for one year, beginning in August, 2005 and ending in August 2006. Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation provided temporary use of office space and technical assistance such as use of office equipment.