Monthly Archives: June 2021

DHEC Raises Awareness During Pride Month

June is Pride Month, and June 27 is Pride Day. These are opportunities to celebrate achievements by members of the LGBTQIA+ community and acknowledge challenges these individuals may face when it comes to public health and environmental justice.  

“Pride month, and Pride celebrations in general, are a vital part of the LGBTQIA+ community,” said Billy Wiggins, Director of Clinical Services for the DHEC Public Health Bureau of Community Health Services, and a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. “Celebrations, such as Pride, provide important moments of visibility and understanding. In honor of Pride Month, people are encouraged to take some time to learn more about the challenges, accomplishments, and diversity of the LGBTQIA+ community.”

LGBTQIA+ community stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual.   

Pride celebrations started as protests dating back to the Stonewall riots in June 1969 New York City (NYC). In 2016 the Stonewall site in NYC was declared a national monument.

To recognize the meaningful impact that our LGBTQIA+ community has had in the fields of environmental protection and public health, we’ve spotlighted several notable public figures who have and/or are making a difference in our communities.

“For almost 15 years DHEC’s STD/HIV and viral hepatitis division has partnered with SC Pride to offer outreach and testing services during the annual Pride festival,” said Tony Price, Prevention Program Manager of that Division. “DHEC has provided free testing for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis C. At some of the events, DHEC has also provided vaccines for hepatitis A/B and influenza. The division has enjoyed a strong partnership with SC Pride, its leadership, and participants in the past. We look forward to continuing our efforts to support the LGBTQIA+ community with our health promotion and outreach programs.” 

Public Health 

Two notable public health figures who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community are Michael J. Kaplan and Dr. Rachel Levine.

Kaplan is currently the President and CEO of Melanoma Research Alliance, and before that he was President and CEO of Washington, DC-based AIDS United. During his 25 years of executive non-profit and public health leadership experience, Kaplan has proven to be a supporter of health research and policy, mainly in the area of serving people living with HIV/AIDS in the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Levine became the first openly transgender federal official in a Senate-confirmed role earlier this year when she was named Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. She has served as: Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health; Pennsylvania’s Physician General; Vice-Chair for Clinical Affairs for the Department of Pediatrics; and Chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. In addition to her recent posts in medicine and government, Dr. Levine is an accomplished speaker and author of numerous publications on the opioid crisis, adolescent medicine, eating disorders, and LGBT medicine. 

As for public health challenges, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are five times as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to attempt suicide, and 40 percent of transgender adults report having attempted suicide. According to a 2017 study from the University of Chicago, “Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America.” LGBT youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness compared to their heterosexual counterparts, according to the CDC. More information on LGBTQIA+ health is available on the CDC’s website.

Environmental Affairs

DHEC uses the definition created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to define Environmental Justice (EJ) “as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” Our agency’s five EJ principles are: 

  1. Ensure that Environmental Justice Communities are Routinely Considered Throughout Decision-Making Processes. 
  2. Proactively Build and Strengthen Relationships with Communities by Sharing Information, Providing Technical Assistance, and Identifying Resources. 
  3. Proactively Promote Partnerships Between Communities and Other Stakeholders. 
  4. Encourage and Facilitate Capacity Building and Collaborative Problem Solving Within Environmental Justice Communities. 
  5. Strengthen Our Agency’s Leadership with the Goal of Sustaining Environmental Justice within SC DHEC. 

You can learn more about EJ by clicking here.  A few members of LGBTQIA+ community that are notable for their contributions to the environment are: 

Rachel Carson was an American marine biologist, author, and conservationist whose influential book “Silent Spring” and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement. “Silent Spring” was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, but it spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides. It also inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Carson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter. 

Mahri Monson, an Environmental Protection Specialist for the EPA, describes her work as “enforcing U.S. environmental laws, addressing serious pollution problems to protect communities and the environment.” A proponent of green infrastructure, Monson’s work strategizes storm management and mitigates sewer overflows, providing environmental and social benefits for communities throughout the country. Monson also worked alongside co-workers to create a policy concerning transgender and gender nonconforming EPA employees, including a guide to transitioning at the EPA and prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity. 


DHEC “Shines the Light” on Sickle Cell

June 19th is World Sickle Cell Day across the globe! Every year, the international health community recognizes Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) as a debilitating genetic disease that impacts families across the globe. Keeping individuals and communities informed about the struggles that come with daily management of SCD, can help raise awareness as well as debunk stereotypes and stigmas associated with persons who have SCD.  

DHEC joins the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA) to “Shine the Light on Sickle Cell” for World Sickle Cell Day.  Through awareness, education, and research for a cure, we heighten awareness and keep our communities informed of the impact this disease has on over 100,000 Americans.

How Is Sickle Cell Disease Identified?

At birth, every child has a newborn screening test performed to screen for different genetic disorders.  Newborn screening consists of testing newborns for certain harmful or potentially fatal disorders that aren’t otherwise apparent at birth.  In 1987, sickle cell disease was added to this testing panel to screen newborns for sickle cell disease and sickle cell trait for South Carolina.  It is very important to know if your newborn has trait, because you, your partner, and family can determine if additional screening is necessary and what additional steps you should take.

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Understanding Ground-level Ozone Forecasts

South Carolina has had two forecasted Code Orange Ozone Action Days since Ground-level Ozone forecasting season began on April 1st of this year. A Code Orange Ozone Action Day means that atmospheric conditions will likely produce concentrations of ground level ozone air pollution that may be unhealthy for sensitive groups, which includes people with lung disease, older adults, and children.   

Ozone typically forms with highest concentrations on warm, hot, sunny days with light wind speeds, which allows more of the pollutant to form and accumulate. Forecasting ground-level ozone concentrations is an educated prediction based on certain weather conditions and emissions. DHEC has a team of experienced meteorologists on staff that review weather and air quality information daily to produce a next-day ozone forecast, which is posted on DHEC’s own ozone website and U.S. EPA’s AIRNow website. 

Knowing the Ground-level Ozone Forecast ahead of time allows you to make plans and adjust your schedule and activities for the next day. Sensitive groups should reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion, take more breaks, and do less intense activities, especially during afternoon and early evening hours when ozone concentrations are typically highest. 

Knowing the Ground-level Ozone Forecastahead of time also allows you to make informed decisions that can help reduce air pollution and decrease ground-level ozone by:    

  1. Refueling your car after 6:00 PM and don’t top off your tank  
  2. Using electric powered lawn equipment  
  3. Avoiding driving during peak traffic hours  
  4. Combining trips when you drive  
  5. Telecommuting (work from home) if possible
  6. Taking your lunch to work  

Sign up to receive forecasts via emails, texts or tweets (customized to fit your style) using EPA’s free EnviroFlash service at  
For additional information about ozone and air quality, click here.   

DHEC Recognizes Juneteenth, Honors Leaders in the Fields of Environmental Protection and Public Health

On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas, where they shared the news that the Civil War had ended and the enslaved were now free. The Emancipation Proclamation had officially ended slavery in the states fighting against the Union on January 1, 1863, but it only took effect when Union forces took control of an area. Of note, the first area it took effect was Beaufort and surrounding islands, since the Union already held this area.

Galveston and the surrounding area of Texas was the last area to fall to Union forces, so June 19, 1865 (Juneteenth) marks the end of slavery in the South.  This event led to Juneteenth as the nationally celebrated remembrance of the ending of slavery in the United States.

Juneteenth is a holiday that has many meanings for the community, and DHEC’s Public Health Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and Deputy Area of Environmental Affairs are recognizing the important role African Americans have had and continue to have in the fields of environmental protection and public health. This includes, here at home in South Carolina.

At DHEC, we are committed to building upon our agency’s existing internal structures and community relationships as well as creating new ones to enhance health equity in South Carolina and better reach our vulnerable communities. While work is ongoing, we recognize that we all must continue to take actions to proactively address long-standing equity gaps and reduce disparities.

Celebrating Juneteenth

Many today celebrate this holiday by having educational programs and fellowshipping with family and friends. Some communities also raise the Juneteenth flag, which highlights this day’s connection to Texas, African Americans, and the reminder that those that were enslaved, and their descendants, were and are Americans.

To learn more about this holiday, you can visit National Registry, Juneteenth Organizations & SupportersThe Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History,and the Smithsonian African American Museum of History and Culture.

You can also search “Juneteenth events” online to find a Juneteenth Celebration near you! A few of those include:

  • June 19: The 5th Annual Juneteenth Freedom Festival – Columbia (Midlands)
  • June 19: Juneteenth Fest – Gaffney (Upstate)
  • June 19: Lowcountry Juneteenth Week – North Charleston (Lowcountry)
  • June 19: Cooler Fest Juneteenth Celebration – Manning (Pee Dee)

In addition, our Public Health team will be hosting several COVID-19 vaccine clinics and educational events with community partners this week as part of Juneteenth celebrations:

  • Friday, June 18, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m., Boykin Park, 801-899 West Hampton, Camden 
  • Saturday, June 19, 12 p.m. – 3 p.m., Founders Park, 120 York St. E., Aiken 
  • Saturday, June 19, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church, 1333 Penderboro Road, Marion
  • Saturday, June 19, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., Smith Haven Park, 410 S Park St., Mullins
  • Saturday, June 19, 3 – 4 p.m., Women’s Missionary Society- Clarendon Chapter (21 AME churches)
  • Saturday, June 19, 5 – 8 p.m., Jolly Park, 102 Railroad Ave., Gaffney
  • Saturday, June 19, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., Norton Thompson Park in Downtown Seneca, 300 Main Street, Seneca
  • Saturday, June 19, 12 – 5 p.m., Downtown Union 

Focusing on Blood Pressure and Diabetes for Men’s Health Week

June 14th through the 20th Men’s Health Week, and we wanted to take the opportunity to see how preventing or managing certain conditions can go a long way toward keeping you healthy. 

Blood pressure 

High blood pressure raises your risk for heart disease and stroke. Your doctor examines your systolic and diastolic pressures, which are measured in millimeters of mercury (abbreviated as mmHg). 

The normal range is: 

  • Systolic: less than 120 mmHg; and 
  • Diastolic: less than 80 mmHg. 

High blood pressure can also damage the tiny blood vessels in your eyes and restrict blood flow to your retina, leading to blurred vision or blindness. It can cause fluid to build under your retina, which distorts and sometimes impairs vision. 

And if high blood pressure completely blocks the flow of blood to your optic nerve, it can kill the nerve cells and cause temporary or permanent vision loss. High blood pressure also can lead to stroke. 

If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medication and lifestyle changes. 

You can have your blood pressure checked during a preventive screening, which is available at no cost to State Health Plan primary members. To learn more about the preventive screening benefit, visit


About 15 percent of men in the U.S. have diabetes, according to National Diabetes Statistics Report. There are several types of blood-sugar tests to determine if you have prediabetes, Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Normal, nonfasting blood glucose readings are between 70 and 140 milligrams per deciliter. 

If you’re diagnosed with diabetes, a diabetes educator can help you: 

  • Develop a healthy eating plan. 
  • Learn to test your blood sugar and record the results. 
  • Recognize the signs of high or low blood sugar and what to do about it. 
  • Monitor your feet, skin and eyes. 
  • Manage stress and deal with diabetes care. 

Diabetes can also affect your vision. With this diagnosis comes a chance of developing retinopathy, a disease that results when high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in your eyes. It can harm your vision and result in blindness. Diabetes also increases the risk of other serious vision conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma. 

Talk to your network physician if you have diabetes or think you may be at risk. Let your doctor know you’re interested in meeting with a diabetes educator, and he or she can refer you. 

You can also get one-on-one coaching from a health coach to help you manage diabetes. For details, call 855.838.5897

If you have diabetes, you may also qualify for No-Pay Copay, a program that provides certain generic medications to treat your condition at no cost to you. To learn more about diabetes education and No-Pay Copay, visit 

What you can do 

Your risk of developing these common health issues and the potential vision complications that may result can be reduced with healthy lifestyle choices: 

  • Maintain a healthy body weight 
  • Stop smoking 
  • Exercise regularly 
  • Eat a healthy diet 
  • Visit regularly with your physician and your eye doctor for thorough check-ups 

Have questions about your vision? Find an eye doctor near you, and schedule an eye exam today.