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A member of the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP) Community Action Council (CAC) has moved from guiding research to influencing state policy recommendations through her work with the CAC.

Pastor Patricia Peterson served as the House Public Appointee for the Joint Legislative Study Commission on Poverty Reduction and Economic Recovery. The Commission created a report that discussed problems and solutions to poverty throughout North Carolina and presented the report to the General Assembly on May 11.

The report summarized the Commission’s main concerns, including: Tax Issues, Jobs, State Programs and Persistent Poverty. In addition, the report gave a plethora of findings and recommendations to the general assembly on how to solve these problems.

“At the core of these disparities is poverty, and given the economic climate in 2008, North Carolina’s legislature was taking a look at how to reduce poverty,” Peterson said.

Peterson was invited to be part of the Commission because of her leadership role with the CAC, which uses community members to guide the research done at HDP. The CAC conducted research in 2007 through the HOPE Works study that showed women in Eastern North Carolina were concerned about economic issues, including earning a living wage.  Peterson was CAC chair at that time, and she and others from the CAC presented Representative Russell Tucker with their findings. Tucker suggested Peterson join the Joint Legislative Study Commission to represent the community’s voice.

Peterson said no actions have been taken outside the presentation to the Assembly.

“I would like to see the Assembly go forward with some of the recommendations. For example, the Commission found that if cuts to Medicaid were restored, some 40,000 jobs in the health care industry could be brought back to the state,” Peterson said. “The Commission found that quality child care is key to developing job opportunities for the poor and to giving poor children a quality start in life.”

The commission also looked at other states’ evidence-based intervention methods and best practices, listened to experts from all over the state and reviewed any matters pertinent to poverty reduction and economic recovery in North Carolina. From there, the team focused on four areas of concern: tax issues, jobs, state programs and persistent poverty.

The committee then presented their report to the 2010 Regular Session of the General Assembly.

“We broke into subgroups and we prioritized the issues that were important to the women that were surveyed,” Peterson said. “We determined the key issues affecting them, and after realized that we had information that was extremely significant, we knew we had to do something with it.”

HPDP is a CDC Prevention Research Center and the HOPE Works project was the Center’s core research project from 2004-2009.

Becky Bush
Communications Intern

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