Brunswick County November 2022


County Seat

Median Income

Population Density Designation

We were welcomed to Brunswick County by Leigh Lane and members of the Brunswick Wellness Coalition on the campus of Brunswick Community College. The coalition is dedicated to improving the overall health of the community with what Lane dubbed the “audacious goal of becoming the healthiest county in North Carolina.”

The Brunswick Wellness Coalition is committed to bringing together groups across an array of sectors from health care to government to business to faith in sharing resources, producing information and driving community engagement with an eye toward both disease prevention and promoting healthier lifestyles.

The coalition is focused on collective action through the 40 formal partners who compose the group — with more than 120 informal partners joining together to make the whole thing work according to Lane.

Brunswick County is one of the fastest growing counties in North Carolina with a population of more than 140,000 according to the latest census — nearly double the population listed in the 2000 census. Much of this population growth is owed to the growth of Wilmington, with the increases in population centered around towns such as Leland that are proximate to Wilmington proper. The growth has presented both opportunities and challenges according to the assembled community leaders including a commensurate increase in resources — including the growth in the property tax base that allows local governments to make investments — and challenges including a lack of affordable, accessible housing.

The skyrocketing cost of housing has created particular challenges to the goals of both the coalition and the county as a whole. Travis Greer of the Brunswick County Health Department described homelessness, for one, as a relatively new issue for the county and region as a result of the housing challenges.

Other challenges offered up by the community leaders included an increase in self-reported mental health challenges by teenagers, accessible and affordable childcare for young families and a lack of public transportation options.

While all these challenges are multifaceted, the coalition’s partners are all actively working to address them from the ground up.

We ended our time together with a presentation from Meghan Lassiter from the local cooperative extension. Lassiter walked us through a taste test exercise with a variety of apples to see which ones our group liked the most. The taste test was an example of the exercises the coalition undertakes in local schools to try to bolster produce consumption by young people.

The hard-working collective action from the coalition’s partners has begun to pay off according to Lane. Brunswick County went from 45th to 28th in county health rankings between 2016 and 2021.1

“We’ve improved dramatically, but we’re not done yet. We have a lot of work left to do to make sure we meet both the opportunities and the challenges facing all of our county’s residents,” commented Lane. “We truly want to be the healthiest county in North Carolina. We really do think that is possible.”

Meet Dr. Algie Gatewood

Dr. Algie Gatewood is only the fourth President to lead Alamance Community College (ACC) since it opened in 1958. During Dr. Gatewood’s tenure at ACC, the college won its largest ever bond referendum – nearly $40 million – in 2018 to fund a number of major capital projects and expansions. The college also secured $16 million in county funding in 2014 to build the Advanced Applied Technology Center. Other notable accomplishments include creating a Biotechnology Center of Excellence, introducing an Early College, facilitating an apprenticeship program, and introducing nearly two dozen new academic programs and articulation agreements with state universities.

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U39702, 2/23