“Diet and exercise” alone doesn’t tell us how to live healthier lives. Health starts upstream – it flows from where we live, work, learn and play. With that focus, Furman’s Institute for the Advancement of Community Health addresses all sectors of the community so that everyone can attain their best health.
The institute was part of two major awards that the Greenville community received – The Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Prize and BUILD Health 3.0. The first is a national award that advances equitable access to housing, education, workforce development, transportation and health care in the region. Greenville County was one of five communities chosen in 2019. For BUILD 3.0: Build Trust, Build Health, Furman’s institute and LiveWell Greenville secured a $500,000 investment for Greenville County to address the needs of vulnerable Hispanic families. To creatively address environmental and systemic challenges and drive sustainable improvements in community health, Furman and LiveWell brought together the Hispanic Alliance, Prisma Health, Bon Secours St. Francis and the state health department to become one of 17 communities nationwide to join BUILD 3.0.
The university’s Medical Legal Partnership with Prisma Health Upstate and South Carolina Legal Services is the first of its kind in South Carolina. Staff, partners and student interns help streamline access to assistance when a medical problem is tied to a social or legal problem. COVID-19 brought restrictions, but the partnership shifted to virtual meetings with patients and drive-through services to practice law and settle cases. Requests for health care powers of attorney and wills and estate assistance increased during this time, but Furman was able to meet the community’s needs, easing the anxiety of patients and their families. This year, with Furman’s Institute for the Advancement of Community Health as the lead, the partnership is using a comprehensive evaluation to measure its effects on patients and on health system spending and use.
Graduate Studies programs also strengthened Furman’s bonds with the community. The master’s program for Community Engaged Medicine, in particular, found new ways to connect with the community during the pandemic. With a focus on identifying health inequities and recognizing the needs of under-resourced populations, the program is especially relevant as the COVID-19 pandemic highlights disparate community health outcomes. The program continues to expand the number of community partners – including more departments within Prisma Health – that contribute to the community-engaged fieldwork portion of the program.
To prepare the next generations of college students, Furman’s High School Virtual Academy is collaborating with three institutes, offering tracks in community health, sustainability, and in innovation and entrepreneurship.
Graduate students in the Master of Science in Community Engaged Medicine program study anatomy in July of 2019.
Reflecting its growing reach and importance to our near and long-term future, the David E. Shi Center for Sustainability entered its 11th year and became the Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities this fall. This new name conveys the institute’s expanded focus on systems-level sustainability and additional learning, research and leadership opportunities for students, faculty, community partners and regional leaders. Furman again ranked among the top 10 baccalaureate universities for sustainability, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, and holds the organization’s STARS Gold rating. The institute’s Student Fellows program has now hosted more than 325 student fellowships together with campus and community partner organizations, including the nearby cities of Travelers Rest and Greenville, Project Host, Upstate Forever, Trees Upstate, Palmetto Green and Prisma Health. The Community Conservation Corps, the institute’s community program, works with Habitat for Humanity to provide free home weatherization to low-income residents of greater Greenville and has now weatherized more than 150 homes across the Upstate.
The institute also oversees the Bridges to a Brighter Future and College Advising Corps programs. This past year, Bridges served 74 Greenville County high school students through year-round programming, including in-school visits, monthly Saturday events on campus, college planning, leadership development and academic enrichment. Bridges also supported 24 high school graduates who will enter college this fall, including three who will enroll at Furman, and more than 100 Bridges students who are currently in colleges across the country. The College Advising Corps, meanwhile, provided personal advising services to more than 1,000 South Carolina high school students during the 2019-20 school year. The program’s seven college advisers shifted to virtual advising during the pandemic, helping students figure out life after high school in this uncertain time.