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A Blueprint for Helping Lee County Kids

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The South Carolina Office of Rural Health (SCORH) aims to improve the health of the state’s rural population through the Blueprint for Health program. During the 18-month program, SCORH works with leaders in rural areas across the state to cultivate strong leadership, effective community coalitions and a deep understanding of local issues. The coalitions go through leadership development training, plan and implement a community project that addresses social factors affecting health outcomes, and develop a “Vision for Health” for their communities.

Lee County’s Rural Leadership and Interagency Council was one of five coalitions selected for the inaugural cohort of Blueprint for Health. The program helped reinvigorate the coalition, according to its chair, Regina Nesmith-Dimery. After a period of decline, “we became a stronger, more viable group,” she said. “It helped take us to another level in how we could be more effective as a coalition.”

Leadership training included a deeper look at social determinants of health and explored topics including economic development, education and health care. The coalition decided to address education with its project. “If you can't read, you have poor health literacy and poor financial literacy,” said Nesmith-Dimery. “All of these things impact the health and well-being of the community.”

With a focus on literacy, nutrition and physical activity, the coalition implemented several projects at West Lee Elementary School. It led efforts to create a playground, walking trail, community garden and an outdoor reading nook, which are open to the community after school hours. A coalition committee coordinates a monthly farmers market during afterschool pickup. And the coalition established Parent Cafés, through which parents received kits to practice reading at home with their children.

Nesmith-Dimery credits Blueprint with reconnecting the coalition with important stakeholders in the community, such as local and state government and the Lee County School District. “It helped us get reconnected with those people and entities we needed to have at the table,” she said. “It gave us a renewed spirit and mindset that we're in this together. We were all on the same page on community issues that need to be resolved.”

Thanks to the Blueprint for Health funding, this reinvigorated and reconnected coalition has a plan in place for improving health outcomes in Lee County.