Monthly Archives: March 2016

It’s National Nutrition Month®: Savor the Flavor of Eating Right!

Time to Kick Unhealthy Eating Habits 

By Phyllis Allen, Director of Nutrition, DHEC

We do it all the time: Declare we’re going to eat more nutritious meals so that we can be healthier, control our weight and improve our quality of life. Some of us actually follow through. Most of us don’t.

But all is not lost. If you’ve fallen, you can get back up and try again. And there’s no better time to do so than this month, since it is National Nutrition Month®.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the theme, “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,” encourages everyone to take time to enjoy food traditions and appreciate the pleasures, great flavors and social experiences food can add to our lives. How, when, why, and where we eat, are just as important as what we eat! Develop a mindful eating pattern that includes nutritious and flavorful foods — that’s the best way to savor the flavor of eating right!

We owe it to ourselves, our families and our communities to develop healthier eating habits. Poor nutrition and sedentary lifestyles not only contributes to individuals being overweight, but can potentially lead to chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Healthy eating means a healthier you  

Still wonder what’s the big deal about eating healthy? We’re so glad you asked.

The Society for Public Health Education is among those leading the charge to bring more awareness to the importance of good nutrition. The society provides some compelling reasons regarding why we should be healthy eaters:

  • To stay strong and active. Healthy foods have the vitamins, minerals and nutrients your body needs.
  • To lower your health risks. Choosing healthier foods can help lower your risk for chronic health conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • To manage your weight. Healthy diet and physical activity can help you stay at a healthy weight.
  • To set a positive example. If you have children, the healthy food choices your child sees you make now can impact their eating choices throughout their lifetime.

Need even more convincing?

Just consider these statistics from

  • Two out of three South Carolina adults are overweight
  • 30 percent of high school students are obese or overweight.
  • Obesity costs South Carolina an estimated $8.5 billion annually.

So there you have it, not just one or two or even several reasons to eat better and get healthier; there are billions of reasons.

A few tips on becoming a healthy eater

While it can be difficult to transition from sugary, fatty snacks to fruits and nuts, don’t give up. And you don’t have to do it alone. Ask friends or family members to join you. We all need to learn how to eat better — and then follow through on the pledge to indeed do it.

Here are a few tips to help get you started eating and drinking healthier:

  • Drink water or unsweet tea instead of sodas; it will keep you hydrated and feeling energized.
  • On the go? Keep healthy, easy-to-eat snacks — such as apples, bananas, carrot sticks and nuts — handy.
  • Skip the salt at the dinner table and look for low-sodium options for soups and sauces.
  • Bake or broil lean meats like chicken breast or fish and remove the skin to cut the fat.

Some people struggle with cooking healthier meals at first. If you’re short on recipes, try some of those included in DHEC’s Healthy Heart and Soul Recipe book.

There is a wealth of information available to help you get started on your new journey toward good nutrition. Visit the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control page on obesity to get information on nutrition, healthy weight and nutrition counseling.

Champions of the Environment: Building a Living Shoreline

Guest post by Allie Kreutzer, environmental education coordinator, Cape Romain Environmental Education Charter School

Cape Romain Environmental Education Charter School (CREECS) is located in McClellanville, S.C. –  a historic fishing village nestled between the Francis Marion National Forest and Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.

Most of our students love to hunt, fish, and boat. Furthermore, a lot of our parents, as fishermen, depend on the environment for their livelihood. Teaching our students to understand and preserve our ecosystems is just a natural extension of learning in this community.

The benefits that the salt marsh ecosystem provides for our community are innumerable. 

Oysters filter the water, provide habitat for 85% of local, commercially-important seafood species, provide a natural shoreline buffer from storms and boat wakes, and provide food for animals as well as people. Spartina marshes provide a valuable nursery ground for ecologically and commercially important marine species, a critical resting point for countless species of migrating birds, and the elaborate root system that helps stabilize the shoreline.

Our Champions of the Environment project involves building a “Living Shoreline” at the local boat landing in McClellanville. In conjunction with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resource’s Oyster Restoration and Enhancement program, all students from kindergarten through 8th grade will help restore this local salt marsh.

Elementary school students will harvest and germinate Spartina alterniflora (smooth cord grass) seeds, then transplant them along the shoreline.

CREES planting.jpg

Middle school students will bag and place oyster shells along the shoreline to attract baby oysters and start a new oyster reef.
CREES oyster bag chain.jpg

We do several different service projects throughout the year but this is probably my favorite one. Though it can be nerve-racking hoping that your seeds sprout and your plants grow, and challenging to keep them watered over breaks, it is well worth the effort.


The Living Shoreline project keeps students engaged all year; from getting muddy harvesting the seeds in the fall, bagging oyster shells and germinating the plants (and creating experiments on how best to grow them) throughout the year, to getting back out in the mud to transplant the grass and oyster shells onto the shoreline.

CREES oyster bagging 3.JPG

Next year the students will get to see their efforts come to fruition as they watch the oysters and plants grow. They will also start to see animals that are attracted to the restored habitat.

This post is part of a series of posts on environmental education submitted by DHEC’s Champions of the Environment 2016 winners.

About Champions of the Environment
Champions of the Environment provides resources and support to foster environmental education and action in South Carolina’s kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms. The program is sponsored by S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, International Paper and SCE&G, with assistance from the Environmental Education Association of South Carolina. For more information, visit

Dr. Ervin Named TB Elimination Champion

By Mary-Kathryn Craft

Dr richard Ervin -champions.jpgToday is World TB Day, and one of S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s doctors has recently been recognized as a national leader in the fight to prevent and control tuberculosis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention selected State Medical TB Clinician Dr. F. Richard “Rick” Ervin as a U.S. TB Elimination Champion for making tremendous strides in efforts to end TB. Specifically, he incorporated the Tuberculin Skin Test in the 3D online tool in most patient evaluations. This quantitative estimation of risk of progression from Latent TB Infection to active disease assists in patient education and allows nurses to better prioritize case management to patients at highest risk and focus on completion of therapy.

In addition, Dr. Ervin incorporated the immediate use of the GeneXpert test, regardless of smear results, for more rapid clinical decision analysis in people referred to DHEC’s TB Control Program. This test detects presence of TB bacteria and tests for resistance to certain drugs.

The tool helps to quickly and objectively separate patients not representing a public health threat from those with TB disease requiring prompt therapeutic and contact investigation interventions.

Dr. Ervin’s constant advocacy has allowed DHEC nurses to achieve successful outcomes in TB elimination. Thanks to Dr. Ervin for his dedication to eliminating TB in South Carolina and setting an inspiring example for the nation.

To learn more about DHEC’s TB prevention program, visit

The time is now to ‘End TB!’

By Victoria Bethay

For many, tuberculosis (TB) seems to be a disease from another era, something our parents or grandparents might have had to worry about. TB, which is still around today, is a treatable bacterial disease found primarily in the lungs. It is spread from person to person through the air.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control works tirelessly to eliminate TB in our state through awareness campaigns targeting high-risk populations, education of medical staff on TB, and excellent patient care for those diagnosed with it.

To help build awareness, World TB Day has been designated for March 24 to commemorate the discovery of the mycobacterium that causes TB in people. This year’s theme, chosen in collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Stop TB and the National TB Controllers Association, is “End TB.” The strategy aims to eliminate this deadly disease worldwide, and DHEC plays a key role in the effort to reduce the number of cases in South Carolina.

Globally, 9.6 million people were diagnosed with active TB disease in 2014. The United States reported having 9,421 of those cases. In that same year, South Carolina diagnosed 79 cases of TB. South Carolina’s African-American population is at a much greater risk for developing TB – in 2014 this community made up 64.6 percent of TB cases statewide.

TB can be spread from person to person through the air when an infected individual coughs, sneezes, speaks or even sings. Individuals with active TB disease may have a cough lasting three weeks or longer, chest pain, coughing up blood or mucus, fatigue, loss of appetite, fever or chills, and night sweats.

If you have been exposed to someone with TB, or have any of the signs or symptoms of disease, contact your health care provider about getting screened. Current screening tests available for TB testing include: the Tuberculin Skin Test (TST) and a blood test (IGRA). If you have been exposed to TB or have TB symptoms, ask your health care provider which test is best for you.

The time is now to “End TB!” For more information on resources offered by DHEC, visit our website at .


Colorectal cancer deadly, but preventable

By Sonya Younger

Colorectal cancer will claim the lives of an estimated 830 South Carolinians this year. Another 2,200 will be diagnosed with the disease.

According to the American Cancer Society’s “Cancer Facts and Figures 2016,” colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women in the United States and South Carolina, with almost 49,000 deaths and 134,000 new cases occurring nationally. There are 1.2 million Americans living with colorectal cancer in the United States.

Despite those statistics, colorectal (or colon) cancer is a preventable disease — if it’s detected early, which is why it’s so critical for people 50 and older to be tested regularly. Only 64.2 percent of people 50 or older report having ever had a colorectal cancer screening test in South Carolina (S.C. Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System 2012).

This month is National Colorectal Cancer Month, a time not only to be reminded of the damage this cancer can cause, but to be reminded of how early detection can help prevent the disease.

Catch colorectal cancer early

It’s important to screen for colon cancer because it often doesn’t reveal itself. The disease is a silent killer: Polyps and early stage colon cancer often cause no symptoms.

But the rate of new cases has been decreasing for most of the past two decades, a trend that has largely been attributed to increases in the use of colorectal cancer screening tests that allow for the detection and removal of colorectal polyps before they become cancerous (American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts and Figures 2014).

The U.S. Protective Services Task Force recommends screening for colorectal cancer using fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy in adults beginning at age 50 and continuing until age 75. The colonoscopy is the most widely used.

Reducing the risk

According to the American Cancer Society, there are a number of factors that can increase the risk of getting colorectal cancer, including physical inactivity, overweight and obesity, smoking and alcohol use.

Family history and race also are factors.

People with a parent, sibling or child who has had colorectal cancer have two to three times the risk of developing the disease compared to individuals with no family history. If the relative was diagnosed at a young age or if there is more than one affected relative, the risk increases. About 20 percent of all colorectal cancer patients have a close relative who was diagnosed with the disease.

African-Americans are at a higher risk for the disease than other populations, according to studies. Starting at age 50, everyone should begin routine screening tests. Research shows that African-Americans are being diagnosed at a younger average age than other people. Therefore, some experts suggest that African-Americans should begin their screening at age 45.

There are ways to help reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer, including:

  • getting screened regularly
  • adopting a physically active lifestyle
  • eating a healthy diet
  • limiting alcohol consumption

Screening more accessible to state employees

In South Carolina, the Public Employee Benefits Authority (PEBA) considered early detection to be so important that it made an intentional effort to increase colorectal cancer screening rates among state employees and their family members over age 50 — a group of approximately 118,000 enrollees. In order to find the right approach, PEBA, which administers retirement and insurance benefits for South Carolina public employers, employees and retirees, collaborated with the University of South Carolina Center for Colon Cancer Research, the American Cancer Society, the S.C. Cancer Alliance and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s S.C. Central Cancer Registry (SCCCR).

Key data from the SCCCR was used to help produce critical materials and fact sheets for the PEBA Board of Directors to review. One of the recommendations among the materials was to remove all cost barriers for screening supported by data-driven statements using South Carolina’s incidence, mortality, stage distribution (particularly the percent of late-stage cases diagnosed annually), as well as the costs of treatment for advanced disease. The cost savings of screening versus treatment was demonstrated.

The board ultimately voted to remove cost barriers to screening for State Health Plan enrollees. Even though this screening was covered by the State Health Plan, deductibles, co-pays and out-of-pocket costs could add up to hundreds of dollars.


Effective January 2016, this colonoscopy benefit is offered at no cost to State Health Plan primary members at network providers. The State Health Plan has removed a patient’s out-of-pocket cost for diagnostic colonoscopies and routine screenings, including the pre-surgical consultation, the generic prep kit, the procedure itself and associated anesthesia. The state’s Standard and Savings plans follow the age recommendations set by the United States Preventive Services Task Force for routine colonoscopies.

The key refrain in the fight against colorectal cancer is simple and direct: Get screened regularly.

Visit the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s page on colorectal cancer for more information.