Claflin University Receives $1.8M Grant to Support Health and Wellness Initiatives in Rural Communities

Feb 02, 2024

Claflin University received a $1.8 million grant for its CU-DEEP Wellness Initiative which focuses on specific areas of health and wellness that are often areas of concern in rural, minority communities. The University was among the first selected to participate in the SC Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare's recent celebration of the virtual launch of the SC HBCU Health Discovery Program.

The CU-DEEP Wellness Initiative has four pillars of health and wellness: Dietary Health, Economic Health, Emotional Health, and Physical Health. These pillars include three signature programs and four secondary activities that focus on each pillar of health and wellness. Each pillar is a health and wellness priority for each of the programs and activities in this initiative. Each participating university will promote and reduce health disparities while giving students real-world experience.

SC HBCU Health Discovery Program is designed to utilize the talent and perspectives of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to promote health and reduce health disparities. The program is a collaboration that acknowledges the uniqueness of HBCUs to improve health outcomes in South Carolina.

"As an alumna of an HBCU, I understood the prominence of these institutions in their communities and their impact on their students," said CRPH Program Manager and HBCU Health Discovery Program Lead Andrea Mitchell. "It is important to have a program that uses these features in a way that could directly address the health needs of their students and the surrounding communities in a way that brings innovation that only HBCUs can."

Founded in 1869, Claflin University is the oldest HBCU in South Carolina and the state's first university to admit all students regardless of ethnic origin, gender, race, or religion. Claflin has been ranked a Top 10 Best HBCU by U.S. News and World Report for 13 consecutive years.

"Claflin's leadership in seeking solutions to health disparities is consistent with our commitment to promoting social, economic, and political empowerment throughout the campus community, Orangeburg County, and other rural areas within our region'" said Claflin President Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack. "Inequities in these intrinsic values contribute to health disparities in marginalized communities. 

A distinctive feature of the CU-Deep Wellness initiative will be the Therapeutic Adventure Recreation Program (TARP), which was developed to support the principles of the initiative that uses human-powered activities in the wilderness to facilitate individual and group growth and development. Participants in this program will develop technical and higher-level personal skills in leadership, facilitation, reflection, and group dynamics that will bolster each component of CU-­DEEP. 

"The program has tremendous potential for bridging the 'nature gap' and attracting more diversity in participation and leadership in the outdoor recreation industry," Warmack said.

 The HBCU Health Discovery initiative will have collaborative leadership guided by a steering committee comprised of student ambassadors, rural health experts, representatives from the partnering universities, and legislative representatives. This program will underscore the pivotal role HBCUs play in shaping the health landscape for their communities. 

 "What is most exciting about the SC HBCU Health Discovery program is that it is developed and designed by the HBCU community with student engagement," said CRPH Associate Director Michele Stanek. "The communities are designing programs that positively impact health -- not only for their campus community -- but for the larger community in which they reside. At the same time, it is developing and training student ambassadors to lead efforts to reduce health inequities and disparities for all of South Carolina."

The program's commitment to preparing and inspiring the next generation of healthcare leaders is particularly significant for rural healthcare. It seeks to establish a sustainable pipeline of diverse students entering the healthcare workforce by providing mentorship and networking opportunities, ensuring a continuous flow of talent into the healthcare sector. 

"This program was designed with sustainability in mind!" said Rural Health Consultant and Chairwoman for the Center of Excellence for Educator Preparation and Innovation, LaRonda Johnson. "We have recruited advisors committed to facilitating equitable care in their work and will inspire students to do the same on their career path. The program's leadership and advocacy training components will prepare students for active roles in shaping the future of healthcare. I am excited about the intersections between academia, population health, leadership, and community engagement that can become aligned and connected."

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