University of South Carolina

USC helps Kershaw County 'Live Well'

By Karen Petit, Arnold School of Public Health,

Bring on the carrots and apples, and grab your walking shoes.

The people of Kershaw County are making it known that they intend for their county to become the healthiest in South Carolina – and their ambitions don't stop there. Kershaw County also is aiming to be one of the healthiest in the United States.

The University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health is collaborating with community, health and government leaders – and citizens of all ages – for the LiveWell Kershaw initiative, announced Wednesday (Oct. 17).

“The LiveWell Kershaw initiative will be breaking new ground as one of the few efforts anywhere in the United States with a specific goal of positively affecting overall population health, a quantifiable method for measuring progress and a coordinated program for implementation," said Donnie Weeks, KershawHealth president and CEO.

"Our ultimate accountability will be to the County Health Rankings developed annually by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Population Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin,” he said.

And while the plan may seem daunting because of South Carolina's rate of serious chronic diseases, Kershaw County is rather healthy overall -- 10th in the state for overall population health -- based on the County Health Rankings.

However, the county ranks closer to the middle of South Carolina counties in critical areas such physical inactivity, smoking, and access to healthy food, said Joseph Bruce, vice president for marketing and community development and executive director of the KershawHealth Foundation.

And the county ranks relatively low in access to primary care physicians, preventable hospital stays, and access to recreational facilities, he said.

LiveWell Kershaw was developed in response to the Affordable Care Act which mandates that communities throughout the United States assess their health and health needs. Community residents will be asked to provide their input at community assessment events that will be held in elementary schools across the county or by completing a survey online.

The community health assessment will lead to the development of a long-term plan to help Kershaw County achieve its goal of becoming the healthiest in Palmetto State, said Lillian Smith, director of the Arnold School's Office of Public Health Practice.

"The assessment that Kershaw County is taking is one of the first in the state and certainly one of the most comprehensive," said Smith, who will oversee this first phase of LiveWell Kershaw.

Tom Chandler, dean of the Arnold School of Public Health, said partnerships with communities throughout the state, nation and world are a hallmark of the school.

"Our faculty have a distinguished record around the world," he said. "The opportunity to work with you was not a hard sell to my faculty. It's what we do best."

Arnold School faculty and researchers will have opportunities to apply for grants to enhance the health of the community, and students will have chances to learn about public health in a real-world environment. "This initiative can be a model for the rest of our nation."

And for anyone attending the announcement who may be concerned about the challenges to improve their own health, Steve Blair of the Arnold School was reassuring. "Three, 10-minute walks on five days of the week are key to your health. Get up. Move around. You can do this."

One of the world's leading researchers on physical activity and health, Blair said, "Fat, fit people are half as likely to die than those who are thin and sedentary."

Bruce summed up the collaboration by quoting an African proverb. "If you want to run fast, run alone; if you want to run far, run together."

Arnold School of Public Health

Posted: 10/18/12 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 10/18/12 @ 6:05 PM | Permalink