Community Partners

DHEC Partners with SC Community Leaders to Eliminate Health Disparities

On April 8, 2022, in conjunction with National Public Health Week, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced it will expand its own work as well as partnerships with community members and organizations to eliminate health disparities in our state to give all South Carolinians an opportunity to attain optimal health outcomes.

Below includes quotes from community organizations and leaders across the state. 

Across South Carolina

“Eliminating health and opportunity disparities is central to the mission and work of the South Carolina Office of Rural Health. Unfortunately, our rural residents routinely struggle with less access to services, disproportionate funding/investment and poorer health status overall. These challenges are often even greater in our rural communities of color. National Public Health Week is an opportune time to shine a light on these disparities and redouble our efforts to work with DHEC and others to make meaningful progress.” Graham Adams, Ph.D., South Carolina Office of Rural Health CEO

“As the pandemic has shown us, access to public healthcare is critical to ensuring the safety and prosperity of communities. As South Carolinians, we should all work to ensure that everyone, regardless of their ethnic, racial or other demographic backgrounds, has access to quality, affordable healthcare.”  Dr. Delores Dacosta, Executive Director of the South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs

“AARP South Carolina is committed to elevating the voices of those who so often go unheard. We will continue our advocacy and outreach in communities to address disparities in social determinants of health, and our programming such as the AARP SC Living Well series designed to help educate and empower affected people to take control of their health. We rely on strong community partners like DHEC to accomplish our work. Together, we can indeed eliminate health disparities.” Jo Pauling-Jones, AARP South Carolina Associate State Director for Advocacy and Outreach

“Over the last two years, South Carolina’s hospitals have served alongside DHEC and public health workers on the frontlines of a global pandemic unlike we’ve ever experienced. We appreciate DHEC and the state’s public health workforce for their leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as we recognize National Public Health Week.” Melanie Matney, South Carolina Health Association Chief Operating Officer

“As the state’s dedicated early childhood agency with a presence in every county of the state, we recognize that supporting the health and well-being of young children means honoring the unique needs and aspirations of the families and communities in which they live. When we listen and respond to the people we serve, engaging families and communities as true partners in our work, we can achieve a future in which every child has the opportunity to reach their highest potential. First Steps is proud to stand with the Department of Health and Environmental Control in our shared pursuit of this vision.” Georgia Mjartan, South Carolina First Steps Executive Director

“Racial and ethnic minorities, especially African Americans, are at increased risk for poor health outcomes because of chronic health conditions and social inequalities. African Americans are disproportionately affected by health challenges due to inequities in social determinants of health which include socioeconomic status, education, neighborhoods, physical environment, employment, social network, and access to care. A collaborative effort is needed to effectively ensure the African American Community is able to experience an end to health disparities.” Brenda C. Murphy, President of the NAACP South Carolina State Conference Branch

"Public health is all about promoting health care equity, quality and accessibility. At IMPH, we are committed to working collectively to inform policy that will improve health and health care in South Carolina and address the health inequities in our state." Maya Pack, South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health (IMPH) Executive Director

“We physicians play a crucial role in eliminating disparities in public health. Partnering with DHEC provides us with access to statistics across our state and ensures physicians know the public resources available for our patients. Having public health agencies engaged in improving the health of our citizens is critical for success, and we are honored to partner with DHEC as individual providers and as members of the South Carolina Medical Association.” John C. Ropp III, M.D., South Carolina Medical Association President

“The Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina and its member organizations are pleased to partner with DHEC as we work to achieve optimal and equitable health outcomes for all South Carolinians. As we join in recognizing Public Health Awareness Week, we know that the road before us is challenging. We are committed to aligning the efforts of our 60+ member organizations to advance public health and welcome others to join us on this important journey.” Shawn Stinson, MD FACP, Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina Chair

“SCPHA has enjoyed a decades long relationship with DHEC and looks forward to engaging as a partner with DHEC and other organizations on educational and advocacy activities focused on resolving health inequities and environmental injustices.” Rich P. Timmons, South Carolina Public Health Association President

"Able South Carolina is committed to working with DHEC to ensure the voices of South Carolinians with disabilities are heard and recognized. The agency has demonstrated outstanding leadership in shifting its philosophies of disability. South Carolina has a higher than the national average of people with disabilities. One-third of South Carolinians have a disability which DHEC has taken seriously and is committed to eliminating health disparities for the community. The work we have done together has been recognized nationally and is a model for other states. We are excited about the impact we are creating with our partnership." Kimberly Tissot, President & Chief Executive Officer, Able South Carolina

In the Upstate

"New Hope Missionary Baptist Church and surrounding communities have been blessed during the pandemic through our partnership with DHEC. We were honored and grateful to serve as a host site for both testing and vaccinations which directly benefitted our rural and limited resource community, the citizens of McCormick, and many who traveled to McCormick for the services. We look forward to a continued partnership with DHEC beyond COVID.  The works of DHEC will continue to be a great benefit to our community and throughout the state." Pastor Michael Butler of McCormick's New Hope Missionary Baptist Church

“There are few ‘essentials’ that are more important to an individual than their own personal health. At VCOM, our mission is to train globally-minded, community-focused physicians to meet the needs of rural and medically underserved populations. There are countless rural and medically underserved areas across our state and across our country that are in need of assistance. We at VCOM want to be one of the solutions. By training future physicians to recognize and appreciate the need for quality healthcare in these areas, a profound impact is being made. Within the past two years, VCOM has partnered with DHEC to provide COVID vaccines to thousands of people that may not have otherwise been able to receive them. Likewise, standard age-appropriate children’s vaccines like tetanus, polio, and MMR, just to name a few, have been administered to thousands more children who may have otherwise gone without them. DHEC and VCOM have plans for continued collaboration by providing learning experiences to medical students in numerous areas of public health, exposing them to areas that are in the most need. This type of collaboration will lead us to successfully meeting that ‘essential’ of personal health and wellness in all of our communities near and far." Matthew Cannon, Dean of Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine-Carolinas (VCOM)

In the Midlands

“It is important to end health disparities in Fairfield County to make sure that as many residents in Fairfield can get out of the cycle of poverty and have access to the same opportunities regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status. Food access in particular is important in this County as it is one of the most rural in the state with only two grocery stores across the entire County’s 710 square miles. Healthy food and proper nutrition are instrumental in the quality and longevity of anyone’s life. Foodshare and like programs have been sought after to ensure that the access piece of the puzzle can be solved.” Chris Clauson, Assistant Town Manager of Winnsboro

"The Kershaw Connect Serving Kershaw County Residents provides access to public transportation that assist with reducing health disparities and promote health equity by increasing access to healthier food options, medical care, vital services, and employment for these communities that do not have equal access to these fundamental daily necessities." Lottie Jones, Executive Director of the Santee-Wateree Regional Transportation Authority

"Improving transportation access is one more barrier removed from an individual that hopes to reach a medical appointment on time, seek care for a chronic condition, or even receive an early diagnosis to begin treatment. The ability to access transportation can be the difference between treating a condition early or allowing a condition to worsen, resulting in worse health outcomes, or potentially a costly ambulance ride or emergency room visit." Kathryn L. Lane, Live Well Kershaw Coalition Director

“It is so important to help end health disparities because of the simple fact that all people should have their basic needs met. People in rural counties, such as Fairfield, are often neglected when it comes to healthier options because of a lack of grocery stores as well as the price increase that has been occurring nationwide. As rural areas and people in a lower income bracket are struggling, it's our job at FoodShare Fairfield to be able to provide a healthy and cost-effective solution to our citizens.” Layla Zarif, FoodShare Coordinator Fairfield County

In the Pee Dee

“Jessica has been an integral part of our community assessment process as we transition to a collective impact framework. She is helping to lead one of four vision councils formed to support the work of each focus area of our Community Game Plan: health, education, self-sufficiency, and basic needs. As a dedicated problem solver, the United Way of Horry County values and recognizes the importance of the meaningful partnership we have with DHEC.  In order for us to truly make an impact, we must unite our people, ideas and resources to advance the common good and eliminate the disparities affecting our communities so that everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential.” Katie Dwulet, Community Impact Manager- United Way of Horry County  
“DHEC and Pee Dee AHEC have been able to show students through internship placements the work that goes into improving community health. Pee Dee AHEC undergraduate students were able to experience the importance of DHEC’s work in identifying health disparities and ways in which they can be combatted. The lessons our students have learned working alongside public health professionals have been numerous.” Subira Smalls, Health Careers Program Coordinator – Pee Dee AHEC
“Williamsburg County has been impacted by health disparities in many ways, particularly with food security issues. The partnership between CMDs Pantry and DHEC has allowed CMDs Pantry to introduce healthier and better ways of eating to the community, which has created better habits for those with diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiac issues. CMDs feels that with the DHEC partnership we were able to impact many more people in a short time period. The partnership has allowed CMDs Pantry to become a full-service client choice model to better assist all residents and to help decrease disparities.” Tracey Pressley, Director – CMDs Pantry, Williamsburg County

In the Lowcountry

"Prior to the COVID pandemic, we created an all-volunteer group, known as BusinessATTRACT to help close the economic income gap among disparate populations. This group in the early phases of the pandemic was able to pivot to include a focus to work closely with the SC. Department of Health and Environmental Control to raise the vaccination rate among traditionally underserved communities. We were very proud of and impressed by the professionalism, expertise and most importantly the caring nature of the DHEC colleagues. This combination of expertise and caring attitude helped the BusinessATTRACT community volunteer group to convene the earliest "in community" free standing vaccination clinic on May 4,2021 at a local church, St James Missionary Baptist Church on Hilton Head Island. The DHEC worked closely with us on subsequent mobile clinics at Christ Lutheran, the Sandalwood Food Pantry/Queen Chapel AME, MInisterio Internacional Churches and subsequently moved into the Boys and Girls Clubs and similar community embedded locations. In summary, DHEC made a positive difference in the overall health of the Hilton Head Island community! We are fortunate to have such a committed agency working on behalf of SC residents!" Carlton Dallas with the Greater Island Council of Hilton Head Island and Bluffton

“Nuestro Estado's collaboration with DHEC in providing language access significantly increased participation for COVID-19 testing and vaccination among our Spanish speaking audience. We are thankful for the intentionality behind the efforts made by the Lowcountry DHEC team.” Fernando Soto Gaulden, CEO & Publisher of New Digital Press

 “We worked really well with our events by providing community service in different communities handling different types of communities from African American, low income, Spanish, Hispanic and Latino. We've gone out into the communities to work together and bring services to them, which is more impactful than having a building somewhere and have them come to us. We've actually went to them and that's what we continue to do today. We're always in the communities bringing our services wherever we can to the community that needs it. That’s what I appreciate about working with DHEC.” Enrique (Henry) Grace, CFO, with Charleston Hispanic Association



Career of Service