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Two awards, many partners for a healthier Greenville

greenville health
Eli Hestermann, professor of biology and executive director of the Institute for the Advancement of Community Health.

Greenville has won two awards that aim to improve the health of its residents, and Furman University’s Institute for the Advancement of Community Health (IACH) is one of the partners that will play a key role in both.

First, based on nomination materials submitted jointly by LiveWell Greenville, Piedmont Health Foundation and Jolley Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation chose Greenville County as one of five locations nationwide to receive the Culture of Health Prize, which advances equitable access to housing, education, workforce development, transportation and health care in the region. Second, the BUILD Health Challenge selected a Greenville coalition from among 130 applicants for a $500,000 project to reduce racial disparities in youth obesity along the White Horse Road corridor.

The common thread in each of these honors is the reality that achieving ambitious goals hinges on many partners tackling health-related issues.

“It takes a concerted effort to create sustainable improvements to big issues like obesity, affordable housing and sustainable development,” says Eli Hestermann, executive director of IACH. “Addressing challenges like these is never simple or straightforward – community health always requires close collaboration between providers working across different sectors to be successful.”

For the Culture of Health prize, Furman is one of nearly 20 partners that will help Greenville become its healthy best. For example, IACH’s Medical Legal Partnership, the first of its kind in South Carolina, combines Furman University interns, SC Legal Services and Prisma Health to create better health outcomes for the area’s residents, especially those living in poverty who can’t afford legal fees.

For the BUILD Health Challenge, which addresses youth obesity, Furman’s IACH will partner with LiveWell Greenville, Hispanic Alliance, Prisma Health, Bon Secours St. Francis and the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. The partners will work to build a trusting and inclusive community where residents not only have equitable access to health-promoting resources but are also comfortable using them.

Equal access to healthy foods and resources for active living is only one part of the equation, Hestermann says. “We need to better understand the cultural and environmental issues that promote or hinder healthy choices, and we absolutely need community partners at the center of that work.”

Furman’s IACH will evaluate the processes used by the partners as well as the health outcomes for residents in the White Horse Road corridor.

Ultimately, Hestermann says health is about more than our relationship with doctors, nurses, counselors and other health professionals.

“Health is influenced far beyond individual choices about what we eat and drink or how much we exercise. Health starts where we live, work, learn, worship and play, and all sectors of a community have a role in allowing everyone to achieve their very best health.”

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