Root Cause, a health and public services initiative led by the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville, Prisma Health-Upstate, and more than 50 community partners, is the recipient of a three-year grant by Healthy Greenville.
The $246,219 grant will help Root Cause continue its mission of serving residents in the community of Dunean who might otherwise have limited access to healthcare and expand to two nearby communities in Greenville County. It will also allow the medical-student-run community health fair to extend its outreach efforts as it bridges important healthcare and wellness resources to residents.
The grant was awarded as part of the 2022 grant cycle for “Healthy Greenville: A Bold Health Initiative for Greenville County,” the Greenville Health Authority’s annual grant program. This year, “Healthy Greenville” awarded a total of $5.8 million in grants to 11 nonprofit organizations that impact health-related care, health research, and health education projects and programs to improve the health of Greenville County residents.
“We are extremely grateful to the Greenville Health Authority for its recognition of the efforts of our students to expand access to healthcare, and work towards overcoming health disparities in their surrounding communities,” said Dr. Jennifer Springhart, MD, clinical assistant professor at UofSC School of Medicine Greenville and faculty advisor for Root Cause. “This grant will allow us to reach larger numbers of people in need and help our students to feel embedded in the Greenville community.”
Thank you to all of the grant writers who lent their expertise: Elise Kao, Darby Billing, Alyssa Guo, Kate Girtain-Haywood, Brandon Xavier, TJ Wenzel, Peyton Wright, Jennifer McCormack, Dr. Lauren Tyler, Dr. Jennifer Springhart, Dr. Lauren Fowler, Dr. MacGilvray, and Dean Dr. Marjorie Jenkins.
Since 2019, Root Cause has been engaging and helping residents stay healthy, by promoting healthy lifestyles and working to reduce health disparities across Greenville County. UofSC School of Medicine Greenville established the community health fair in the community of Dunean, where a significant portion of residents report low access to healthcare. A 2018 multidisciplinary task force found that the community — adjacent to the UofSC School of Medicine Greenville and Prisma Health Greenville Memorial Hospital — was an at-risk community with a high rate of poverty, diabetes, obesity and low rates of access to health care.
Thanks to the three-year Healthy Greenville grant, Root Cause will be able to expand its reach and positive impact beyond the Dunean community. Plans call for an expansion to the nearby communities of Nicholtown and Berea.
“This grant will help Root Cause expand to these other communities while also continuing to invest in the Dunean region,” says Elise Kao, Root Cause student director.
Furthermore, Kao says the nascent program strives to “establish our future as a positive staple of the Greenville County community.”
Every month, Root Cause holds a health fair in Dunean. At the monthly health fair, a free meal is provided while various partners and healthcare experts provide resources and/or teach on relevant public health topics. School of Medicine Greenville (SOMG) medical students and healthcare practitioners teach healthier habits through wellness workshops, cooking demonstrations, blood pressure screenings, and more.
Root Cause aims to “ensure those who have decreased access to healthcare resources can receive them during our monthly health fairs, such as connecting to primary care offices, free clinic information, and wellness information,” said Darby Billing, Student Community Outreach Director. Furthermore, the unique initiative also provides SOMG’s future physicians an opportunity to gain valuable medical volunteering experiences.
“We remain dedicated to the Dunean neighborhood but hope to expand into two nearby neighborhoods over the next year, and perhaps increase our number of events,” said Dr. Springhart, clinical assistant professor at UofSC School of Medicine Greenville “We hope to purchase a vehicle to transport our equipment, and to be able to provide our attendees with better access to healthcare, both at home and in the clinic.” The van will utilize vehicle wrap visuals to help further spread word about Root Cause to residents.
The initiative also plans to hire a marketing employee to help with outreach about the program and events throughout the year. Root Cause is currently entirely run and organized by SOMG faculty, medical student volunteers and community-partner volunteers.