Health Equity Leadership

Message from the NCDHHS Office of Health Equity Director

North Carolinians have major differences in their health, their healthy lifestyle, resources and medical care depending on where they live. People often face challenges such as access to healthcare providers, medications, transportation services, digital equity, and caregivers.  

Health disparities are driven by a complex interaction between social, lifestyle, environmental, and biological determinants of health, including a long history of implicit bias and structural racism embedded in the nation’s systems of healthcare. Factors that influence health disparities include lack of employment, inadequate housing, food insecurity, less education, digital inequity and less access to healthcare. People in rural areas often face major challenges in access to healthcare providers, medications, transportation services and caregivers.

Together we have made great strides in North Carolina. But there still is much work to do. YOU are vital in the efforts to help achieve more across our beautiful state of North Carolina. Whether you are a cancer survivor, caregiver, policymaker, employer, community health worker, school staff or student, community leader or public health or healthcare professional, your contribution and participation are vital in the process to help eliminate health disparities.  

Health disparities touch more than race or ethnicity. They touch the unique individuals, homes, communities, small businesses, services and resources, geographic areas, etc. Those that are the most vulnerable and affected by compounding factors affect all of us. It is important that everyone has equal ability to access what is needed. It takes all of us to find that common mission to work together and identify the issues, share resources, time, and efforts to keep our communities healthy and safe.  

Anyone that truly knows me will tell you about my drive, heart and love for people, building healthy communities, and serving as a connector and ambassador for health equity.  

I invite you to join together with us!

NCDHHS Health Equity Director Ava Hardiman

Ava Hardiman Head shot

Ava Hardiman has over 25 years of experience advancing collaborative, systematic approaches to health equity, diversity, and inclusion. Ava has experience in both public and private sectors and prides herself on leading innovative and integrated approaches centered around positive, sustainable change; community/partnership engagement strategy; state and county level service; internal/external relations; consultative leadership; and organizing groups, stakeholders, and platforms. These efforts equip others for readiness and action and foster resource connections that reduce disparity gaps.

As Senior Director for the NC Comprehensive Cancer Control Program (2015-2022), Ava provided oversight and thought leadership for statewide efforts focused on cancer prevention and control. She spearheaded the statewide NC Cancer Action Plan and NC Cancer Data Burden Guide in addition to establishing and sustaining partnerships with state advisory councils, regional partners, and local partners—placing a special focus on rural counties. Ava’s work has advanced health equity across the cancer continuum, enhanced coordination of care access and outcomes, strengthened community/clinical linkages, and improved survivors’ quality of life.

As co-chair for the DPH (Division for Public Health) Chronic Disease and Injury Section’s (CDIS) Health Equity Community of Practice Committee, Ava provided strategic direction and leadership to the Branch’s advancement of health equity, diversity and inclusion. She led developments for establishing a health equity framework and systemic approaches to embed equity and inclusion. Ava served as liaison and consultative support for the development of DPH’s DEI Council, health equity (HE) framework, HE/DEI Resource Hub, and a division leadership call to action campaign video for its sections and offices to adopt.

Ava served on the National Association for Chronic Disease Director’s (NACDD) Health Equity Council, as a forum speaker and brief technical consultant for other states. Her work inspired the NACDD’s President’s Challenge.

She has also served as staff for the former NC Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities providing leadership/coordination for the NCDHHS Eliminating Steering Committee and the 2006 Health Disparities Report Card.

Most adventurous: Ava has achieved a black belt in martial arts and won competitive martial arts championship awards.