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Greenville County among finalists for health prize

Furman students check out health career opportunities at a recent Health Internship Fair that took place on campus.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced that Greenville County is among the 12 American communities chosen as finalists for the RWJF Culture of Health Prize.

The prize recognizes communities that are bringing partners together around a shared commitment to health, opportunity and equity. Furman’s Institute for the Advancement of Community Health, The Riley Institute, and the Collaborative for Community-Engaged Learning (CEL) are among the university partners working together for a healthier Greenville County.

“What we often call ‘health problems’ are really community problems, requiring coordinated efforts from many partners to address,” said Eli Hestermann, executive director of the Institute for the Advancement of Community Health. “Furman educates its students about these realities and links them to real-world internships with the community partners working to address them. Our research efforts identify the most pressing needs and the most effective strategies for addressing them, including students as active partners in the work.”

Furman faculty and students have been conducting research into local health issues and working with organizations such as LiveWell Greenville, Piedmont Health Foundation, United Way, the Homeless Alliance and the Institute for Child Success. In partnership with the community, Furman institutes are researching areas such as paratransit, affordable housing, gentrification and neighborhood change, education and childhood obesity.

“These communities have set themselves apart by recognizing that health is about opportunity. It is connected to every element of our lives — good schools, safe and affordable housing, high-quality jobs that pay a fair wage and so much more,” said RWJF president and CEO Richard Besser, MD. “In the coming months, we look forward to visiting each community to learn more about how it is working with local leaders and residents to shape solutions in all these areas that impact health.”

Understanding place is integral to improving health and well-being, according to Mike Winiski, executive director of Community-Engaged Learning at Furman.

“The fact that ZIP code is more predictive of health outcomes than your genetic code indicates that community, trust, social capital, transportation, education, local environment and housing play a vital role in health,” he said. “CEL collaborates with community and campus partners to use geographic information systems and other relevant data to study the role of space and place in creating sustainable and healthy communities. We’re excited to be part of a community that centers on inclusive collaboration and takes a systems approach to health and well-being.”

Selected from nearly 200 applicant communities, these are the 12 finalist communities:

  • Greenville County, South Carolina
  • Broward County, Florida
  • Carrollton, Georgia
  • Del Norte County & Tribal Lands, California
  • Fishers, Indiana
  • Gonzales, California
  • Jersey City, New Jersey
  • Lake County, Colorado
  • Lake Village, Arkansas
  • Perth Amboy, New Jersey
  • Sitka, Alaska
  • Vista, California

The RWJF Culture of Health Prize is a national, annual competition that awards $25,000 to prize winning communities that are working together to transform neighborhoods, schools, businesses and more so that better health flourishes everywhere, for everyone. The 2019 winners will be announced this fall.

The RWJF Culture of Health Prize is a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

More information is available on the RWJF website.

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