What makes a community healthier? Medical professionals providing free care to uninsured residents? Programs targeting issues like Parkinson’s disease, substance abuse, and human trafficking? Or organizations bringing food to low-income neighborhoods and after school care to at-risk students?
The trustees of the Greenville Health Authority believe it’s all of those things and more. Each year they invite local nonprofits, academic institutions, government agencies and collaboratives to present grant proposals with a vision of making Greenville County the healthiest in the nation.
“It’s ambitious, but doable. Somebody’s going to be the healthiest, why not us?” says Rev. Stacey Mills, GHA board chair.
Greenville Health Authority is the public entity that remained when Greenville Health System became the private, not‑for‑profit Prisma Health-Upstate. Its 14-member volunteer board of trustees is responsible for overseeing Prisma’s lease agreement and administering the Healthy Greenville and Healthy Greenville, Too! grant initiatives to enhance community health.
GHA president Phillip Liston says the terms of the lease provide $6 million annually to improve the health of county residents. $1 million goes directly toward health-related initiatives chosen by Greenville County. Another $1 million is distributed among the county’s six municipalities — Greenville, Travelers Rest, Greer, Mauldin, Simpsonville, and Fountain Inn, based on population, to meet health needs.
Of the remaining $4 million, $3.9 million fund Healthy Greenville grants. Proposed initiatives must seek to improve health in at least one of four areas: access to healthcare, social determinants of health, mental/behavioral health, or healthy eating and exercise. Grant awards and success are determined using data from the most recent Community Health Needs Assessment and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings.
“We encourage groups competing for the same funds to put their ideas, resources and talents together to work toward a common goal,” Liston says.
One ongoing collaborative effort started with the initial Healthy Greenville grants in 2017. Clemson’s Department of Public Health Sciences and Clemson Extension teamed up with Prisma to offer the CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). The 12-month program is designed to help delay onset of diabetes in at-risk people by encouraging behaviors such as improved nutrition, exercise and stress reduction.
The collaborators also developed Health Extension for Diabetes (HED), a four-month program to help people with diabetes manage their health. Dr. Windsor Sherrill, associate vice president for Health Research at Clemson University, says the two programs have served over 500 participants.
“We assess client health behaviors and outcomes pre- and post-participation and have seen statistically significant improvement in nutrition and exercise as well as improved diabetes knowledge and self-efficacy and weight loss among graduates,” Sherrill said. “The innovative HED program is recognized by the American Diabetes Association. We’re grateful for the GHA grant that enabled us to develop it here; now it has the potential to make a difference across the state.”
GHA also distributes $100,000 annually in Healthy Greenville, Too! grants, awards of $5,000–$25,000 targeted to nontraditional healthcare delivery organizations. Last year’s recipients included North Greenville Crisis Ministries, which provides food, clothing, and emergency funds for rent and utilities.
“We serve around 100 clients weekly with only two part-time employees and a dedicated group of volunteers,” says Joanne Turner, co-director and board chair. “Our goal is to provide healthy food and help clients become independent.”
This year’s grants will be awarded in October, administered by the Community Foundation of Greenville. Liston and Mills look forward to highlighting the work of local organizations through the awards.
“Health care is not on the back burner in Greenville,” Mills says. “It’s taken seriously by the leaders on the board, and seen through a lens of hope.”
To see the full list of Healthy Greenville Grants since 2017, visit https://greenvillehealthauthority.org/healthygreenville/gha-awards/