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Arnold School of Public Health

May graduate to advance health equity for underserved communities by addressing social determinants of health

May 16, 2022 | Erin Bluvas,

As a public health major, Cedrick Belton began to see the bigger picture of health and instantly felt a connection. Growing up in West Columbia, South Carolina, Belton had observed that he and others in his community did not have the same access to resources (e.g., financial, health, educational) as other peers their age.

“I reflected on how my community remained underserved throughout the years and even lost local resources as opposed to gaining them,” he says.

Both in and out of the classroom, Belton spent his time at UofSC learning about the barriers and challenges facing underserved communities as well as possible impacts and solutions. He worked at BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina – first as a Medicare Advantage intern and then as a client services representative. Working with a mentor, Jason M. Sloan, to research population health in rural communities to identify neglected counties and other topics helped Belton learn how much he enjoyed the mentor-mentee relationship.

I want to understand the history of how these underserved communities came to be underserved communities, so this can be applied and avoided by future communities.

-Cedrick Belton, B.A. in Public Health 2022

“This helped me realize that I loved providing mentorship and sharing my past experiences with my peers to help them achieve success as well,” says Belton, who was inspired to seek positions where he could pay it forward.

As a Peer Financial Consultant and Peer Tutor with the Student Success Center, the Dean’s and President’s List Honoree mentored students in the areas of time management and budgeting skills. In his role as executive treasurer for the student organization, Project Vida, he managed a grant and taught children in underserved areas about healthcare and making healthy choices.

The networking and practical education Belton experienced at BlueCross BlueShield, in the classroom and through his volunteer work also helped him figure out what he wanted to do within the broad field of public health. As his tenure at UofSC wraps up, Belton has refined his interests to researching the social determinants of health and diseases that affect underserved communities.

He plans to do this by pursuing a graduate degree in epidemiology after gaining some additional experience in the field. As an epidemiologist, Belton would like to conduct research that supports community reform.

“I want to understand the history of how these underserved communities came to be underserved communities, so this can be applied and avoided by future communities,” the May graduate says. “These areas should be improved through the improvement of health equity through policies, professional institutions/foundations, and empowering community leaders. I believe it starts by shifting the public's mindset toward viewing their health as an investment rather than another expense.”

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