Community Partnership Seeks to Improve Health and Wellness in Tri-County Area

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


Swim Pic 1In a joint announcement, SC State University, the Regional Medical Center of Orangeburg and Calhoun Counties, Claflin University, the City of Orangeburg and Sodexo, which provides food services for the two universities, launched the Be-Fit Health and Wellness Program.

The partners have formed the community alliance to provide solutions that seek to improve the health and wellness of residents in Orangeburg, Bamberg, and Calhoun counties, all of which have a high prevalence of lifestyle diseases. Many families and individuals in these counties suffer from several non-communicable illnesses, such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease.

“At South Carolina State, we have an obligation to ensure the health and wellness of our students, faculty and staff. Healthy students perform better academically, and faculty and staff in optimal health are better able to educate and serve our students,” said President James E. Clark. “But as a partner in the greater Orangeburg region, it would be to the detriment of this tri-county area if we ignored the need to improve the overall health of these communities. At South Carolina State University, we are already working to address health-related issues through research and community programs. We are pleased to leverage the strengths and expertise of our partners for the greater good of the Orangeburg region.”

Of the 46 counties in South Carolina, Calhoun ranks 11th, Bamberg ranks 27th and Orangeburg ranks 40th in overall health outcomes, according to the 2017 County Health Rankings. In terms of obesity, the rates in these counties are higher when compared to state and national data, according to the 2016 County Health Rankings. The adult obesity rates in Bamberg and Orangeburg counties were 41 percent, and in Calhoun County it was 36 percent compared to the state obesity rate of 32 percent and the national obesity rate of 31 percent.

It is this data and other statistics, along with a commitment to the community, that drive the Regional Medical Center, as well as Claflin University and the City of Orangeburg, to join this initiative.

“The Regional Medical Center is committed to improving the overall health of our communities,” said Interim RMC President & CEO Bert Whitaker. “We are actively engaged in a number of programs designed to give community members tools to improve their health, and we are excited about the additional opportunities this partnership with SC State, Claflin University and the City of Orangeburg will create for residents.”

“Claflin University is pleased to partner with our friends in this important collaboration to address health disparities in our community,” President Henry N. Tisdale said. “Claflin has long been concerned about health issues and in response has conducted health-related research and developed a range of programs designed to enhance the quality of life for the people in Orangeburg and surrounding areas.”

“As further evidence of the university’s desire and commitment to bring about significant improvement regarding health-related issues, the University will begin construction this summer on a multi-million dollar Health and Wellness Center for faculty, staff, students and the community. The new structure will include amenities for research, fitness, nutrition as well as a dedicated space for a Farmer’s Market. We are excited about the opportunities that the Health and Wellness Center will provide and equally excited about joining forces with our partners to make a difference in Orangeburg,” Tisdale continued.

“The City of Orangeburg is happy to enter into this partnership to enhance the health and wellness of the citizens of Orangeburg. We offer several recreational and wellness facilities for individuals and families to enjoy while participating in physical activities,” said Orangeburg City Mayor Michael C. Butler.

As part of the partners’ agreement, the Be-Fit Program will extend access to health and wellness facilities and provide a number of community programs and events. Be-Fit participants will be able to use resources such as the RMC Outreach Building, SC State’s swimming pool and Fitness Center (for students only), Claflin’s planned Health and Wellness Center, as well as the City of Orangeburg’s Community Center Gymnasium.

Swim Pic 2The partners will also work together to implement a health awareness campaign, which will offer a number of activities such as wellness assessments, exercise and fitness programs and nutrition education programs. The institutions will also jointly apply for grants that promote health and wellness and will promote the development of community gardens and farmer’s markets so that students and the public can benefit from South Carolina-grown produce.

Additionally, through its award-winning MINDFUL dining program. Sodexo will promote healthy eating trends and lifestyle choices in the dining halls at SC State and Claflin universities by utilizing the latest science and leading health organization recommendations.

"Creating a culture of wellness is part of our commitment to a better tomorrow. We are pleased to join these partners to engage and motivate the local community toward healthy choices," said Sodexo's Regional Dietitian and Wellness Manager, Cristina Caro, MBA, RD, LD. “This aligns with Sodexo’s efforts to provide collaborative leadership and subject-matter expertise to help campuses and communities achieve wellness goals.”

In celebration of the launch of the Be-Fit Health and Wellness Program, SC State University re-opened its newly renovated swimming pool. The pool, with a depth of 3 to 12 feet, is a 25-yard, six lane competitive pool. The university will provide a special opportunity this weekend, allowing free swimming to the public on Saturday, May 6, 2017 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. As summer nears, the university will offer reasonably priced swimming classes and other aquatics activities.

For more information on the Be-Fit Health and Wellness Program, contact Debra Darby at 803-536-7180.