Category Archives: DHEC In the News

DHEC Division One of Four Selected for Nationwide CDC Pilot for Cancer Survivorship

The Division of Cancer Prevention, located in the Bureau of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention, was one of four awardees nationwide selected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct a pilot project to address rural and urban disparities in cancer survivorship.

The pilot project, titled “Improving the Health and Wellness of Cancer Survivors in Rural Communities,” focused specifically on tele-mentoring strategies using Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) to increase coordination and movement of knowledge between specialists and primary care providers. The internationally recognized Project ECHO offers a unique knowledge-sharing approach to create an online community that shares best-practices and case-based learning resources. This online model leverages technology to expand the reach and connectivity of providers in rural areas to subject-specific knowledge and specialists.

SC CCCP held monthly; one-hour Zoom sessions from October 2020 to February 2021. Topics included cancer pain management, sexuality and intimacy, and nutrition for cancer survivor patients. Each session was able to provide expert-delivered content that highlighted best-care practices and created a community of practice among oncologists, primary care providers, nurses, social workers, researchers, administrators, and other caregivers.

Over this ECHO series, the project reached 102 unique participants, with an average of 37 participants per session. Data from this pilot project was able to link providers in four rural counties with specialists in seven urban SC counties and four out-of-state sites. Providers who participated in the ECHO intervention reported up to 60% of their patient population reside in rural areas, which speaks to the intervention’s achievement in targeting rural patients for improved cancer care and outcomes.

“Residents in our rural counties often have less health care access including fewer health care workers, specialists such as cancer doctors, and transportation options,” said Sonya Younger, Comprehensive Cancer Control Program Director. “Rural residents are also more likely to be uninsured and to live farther away from health services. Through innovative telementoring, Project ECHO helped the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control increase rural provider workforce knowledge to provide best-practice, cancer specialty extended care.”

Visit the SC Cancer Alliance’s website to listen to the Cancer Survivorship Project ECHO recorded presentations at https://www.sccancer.org/events/cancer-survivorship-project-echo-recorded-presentations/ 

VIDEO INFORMATION 

Took this out:

By utilizing the ECHO model to share knowledge and foster a clinical community, reaching widespread providers and other clinical professionals that service rural communities, the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control shows the core value of Inspiring Innovation and is an example of the agency strategies of Service and Accessibility and Education and Engagement.

Success was possible through the connectedness of the SC Cancer Division including Best Chance Network, Comprehensive Cancer Control, and Research and Planning program staff and its partners and providers, as well as virtual sessions and electronic communication, demonstrating DHEC’s core value of Promoting Teamwork

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. 

 

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 www.enviroflash.info.  
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