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Uncovering Greenville’s public health issues

Shaniece Criss and her students took a United Ministries gentrification tour with United Ministries Executive Director Tony McDade.

Most Furman students are new to Greenville and see it through the eyes of a college student living in the city. Last month 11 participants, including myself, were given a different perspective through the Current Events in Public Health May Experience course.

Designed by Furman Health Sciences Assistant Professor Shaniece Criss, the course took us on six field trips over the course of two weeks, including Greenlink Transit, Spartanburg’s Northside Development Group, United Ministries’ gentrification tour, Foothills Family Resources, FAVOR Greenville, Brains on Fire and the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office. Through these experiences, we were able to discuss – and see firsthand – the major public health issues affecting Greenville.

We explored issues such as access to public transportation, poverty, unemployment, community safety, access to healthy food, gentrification and the opioid crisis. While these issues are prevalent throughout the U.S., many of us did not realize the extent to which these issues impact Greenville.

Throughout the course, we had eye-opening experiences. We saw tents under a bridge where people – even kids – were living, heard from former heroin addicts and watched defendants present to a judge at bond court.

To complete the course, students presented on similar public health topics affecting Greenville. We also wrote papers reflecting on what we had learned and how we could apply it to our personal passions. These opportunities gave us the chance to look deeper into the issues affecting Greenville – and our hometowns.

Although most participants of this course were public health and health science majors, this May Experience would be ideal for any Furman student looking to learn more about the local community. It also offered many opportunities for students to volunteer at the organizations that were visited.

It was truly amazing to see all the services that Greenville has to offer to help prevent and end some of the issues impacting public health. By participating in this course, we were able to play an active role in improving the Greenville community.

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