September 11, 2018

Carol Wolfenbarger: Mission Hospital McDowell’s Partnerships with Community Organizations Offer Community Potential for Better Health

By Carol Wolfenbarger
President/CNO, Mission Hospital McDowell

Now that the new Mission Hospital McDowell is a reality, we’re looking at how we can continue to partner with community organizations on initiatives to improve our community’s health and become even greater force for promoting community wellness. September is national Health Awareness Month, and we believe we have an important role to play not only in healing the sick, but in supporting our community’s health.

Health systems across the country have invested significant effort and resources into learning about how social determinants of health (SDOH) affect individuals and how and how those systems can most effectively support their communities in this area. Barriers to good housing, stable jobs, and fresh food among other social determinants adversely impact people’s health. In many cases, that impact is greater than contributions of the medical care system. Every community is different, but we know that economic challenges, as well as access to education and employment opportunities, greatly influence these factors.

The SDOH are so important that in 2010 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) initiated their Healthy People 2020 project. Its primary goals are to be a pivotal resource and data clearinghouse on how communities can help residents achieve better health and longer lives through promoting preventive care, alleviating and removing health-related disparities and supporting positive behaviors, environments and relationships that enhance health.

We’ve looked closely at the top health challenges our community members face, and continue our partnership with many of you to reduce tobacco and illicit drug use and to provide access to healthy food and increase exercise opportunities. Our work to date includes supporting a Diabetes Educator and partnering with the Corpening Memorial YMCA on the year-long “Taking Control of Type 2 Diabetes” program; providing Athletic Trainers to the McDowell County School System; and participating in numerous health fair events in our community.

An exciting goal we’re working toward now is connecting our hospital directly to the beautiful YMCA greenway that’s adjacent to our campus. Unveiled in 2013, the project is a partnership between Mission Hospital McDowell, the YMCA, McDowell County and the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. The George Hutchins Loop and the Bill Hendry Loop make up the greenway, which is great for walking, running or biking. Best of all, it’s free and can be used at any time, just like the Catawba River Greenway, which is being repaired from the damage it sustained due to hurricane-related flooding.

I envision our employees being able to get outside and move during their lunch hours, and our neighbors taking advantage of the greenway for a morning run or post-dinner dog walk. We’re currently finishing up a sidewalk building project, and when complete, it will lead directly to the greenway from the hospital. We anticipate that it will be finished by the end of September. This initiative perfectly illustrates the role that Mission Hospital McDowell can play in helping to provide opportunities – through collaboration with community organizations – for community members to improve their health, at little to no cost.

Like you, we see partnerships that improve our community’s wellness as a “win-win” for everyone involved. This road to building a healthy community is key to attaining the quality of life that we all desire. Let’s go ahead and get walking this month – and by the New Year, exercise will be a resolution that we have already achieved.

Carol Wolfenbarger, MSN, RN, FACHE, is President of Mission Hospital McDowell. She holds both Bachelors and Masters of Science degrees in nursing administration from the University of Tennessee, is board certified in Healthcare Management and is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). Carol, who has served hospitals and health systems for more than three decades, has worked to add full-time cardiology services, led growth in outpatient services including imaging and surgery, and the expansion of primary care offering in Burke County since assuming her role as President at McDowell Hospital in 2015. She is an active member in Rotary and serves as a Board member for the Rutherford/Polk/McDowell Health District Board of Directors, the Corpening YMCA Board of Directors, and the McDowell County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

To learn more about Mission Hospital McDowell, please visit