One main goal for Guilford County and the state of North Carolina since the pandemic began has been to put a priority on creating an equitable response that meets the health needs of minorities and the disenfranchised. 

The State of North Carolina took a big step down that road on Monday, Sept. 20, when it announced the establishment of a new “Office of Health Equity” and the hiring of Victor Armstrong as the state’s first-ever chief health equity officer.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) created the position and the office to “advance health equity and reduce disparities in opportunity and outcomes for historically marginalized populations.”

During the pandemic, both Guilford County and the state have implemented multiple programs meant to assure that members of all communities have access to care and prevention options. 

Early in the pandemic – when many county residents were repeatedly calling the county to set up vaccination appointments, Guilford County employees were phoning members of minority communities to schedule appointments – to make sure the county had a solid percentage of minorities in its vaccination stats.  The county also set up vaccination sites at predominately black churches.  Now, the county is using mobile vaccination units to go into communities that lack a strong health infrastructure.

 The State of North Carolina, likewise, has held many vaccination events in areas meant to assure that the disenfranchised have access.

“Today’s announcement marks another step forward in our commitment to embed equity into every aspect of our work and to promote an inclusive, equitable workplace that reflects the communities we serve, where everyone feels a sense of belonging, and our diverse backgrounds and experiences are valued and recognized as strengths,” stated NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen in a press release.

As Chief Health Equity Officer, Armstrong will serve as a member of the department’s executive leadership team – as well as lead the state’s effort “to promote health equity, diversity, and inclusion across all DHHS health and human services.”

He’ll oversee the state’s Office of Health Equity, Office of Rural Health, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

 Armstrong stated in a September 20 press release that he’s delighted the state created the position, and he added, “Health equity only exists when all people have the opportunity to attain their full health potential, and no one is disadvantaged because of their social position or other socially determined circumstance. We only arrive at health equity through intentionality.”

Armstrong joined the NCDHHS in March 2020 as Director of the NC Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, Substance Abuse Services.  He has over 30 years of experience in the field and is a nationally known speaker on health equity issues.

In addition to the Chief Health Equity Officer, DHHS also hired a new assistant secretary of equity and inclusion –  former State Senator Angela Bryant.