Kershaw County: Youth on Fire to Build a Healthier Today

This story was originally published in the 100 Million Healthier Lives Change Library and is brought to you through partnership with 100 Million Healthier Lives and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

Living well starts with good health across the community. This is the premise fueling the LiveWell Kershaw Coalition, an initiative led by the Community Medical Clinic of Kershaw County and is funded through Healthy People, Healthy Carolinas (an initiative of The Duke Endowment) and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement as a SCALE 2.0 community.

LWK was founded by a group of community members interested in using data to guide action aimed at addressing the health issues faced by the residents of Kershaw County. Today, LWK works to foster collaboration between citizens of all ages, working in partnership with public and private sector organizations and schools to increase community awareness of health issues. The goal is to improve access to quality healthcare and encourage the people of Kershaw County to take ownership of the health of the whole county, acting together to reduce chronic disease and obesity among the members of the community. 

LWK is moving the needle on population health in Kershaw County through co-designed solutions to improved well-being in high school youth.

Our Journey

The LiveWell Kershaw Coalition examined data from the Community Health Needs Assessment conducted in April 2017 — funded by the Health Services District of Kershaw County — to identify the most pressing health needs of the community. “Healthy Lifestyles for Youth” was deemed the priority with specific prevention focus to diabetes, teenage sexual activity, and tobacco/vaping use among high school students ages 14-18.

Since identifying  "Healthy Lifestyles for Youth" as a priority, the Livewell Kershaw Coalition has done the following: 

  • Trained 12 coalition members in facilitation methods
  • Conducted 12 focus groups with four high schools and four sensemaking sessions 
  • Hosted an action planning event convening all four high schools 
  • Disseminated a Youth Wellbeing Assessment 
  • Trained 4 student Health Ambassadors in CQI and Model for Improvement 
  • Held a Visioning Workshop with key school district employees to solidify two-year success indicators

"The most impactful thing I've learned through the Livewell Kershaw Coalition would be the fact that students really just want to have a voice. They want to have a say in what happens in their school, in what happens in their community, and if you give them the opportunity to give feedback, usually they can figure out the answer." - Rose Montgomery, Assistant Principal, North Central High School

Inspired Action

Students from across Kershaw county have begun taking action towards leading healthy lives while encouraging others to do the same.

In April 2018, LWK hosted Just Imagine It, a one-day workshop for high school students in Kershaw County to come together and create an action plan. During this workshop, students were taught key community solutions skills that can be embraced by students to begin to transform the culture in their schools for healthy living.

“The biggest thing that I'm taking away from this is the inspiration that I see from all the servant leaders around me,” Matthew Rush, a student at Camden Military Academy said. “It's not easy coming up in front of everybody and saying, ‘This is how we need to change,’ not how we're doing good. It's difficult to point out our flaws rather than where we're succeeding. So, you all really inspired me with that."

Before Just Imagine It, LWK held focus groups at each Kershaw County high school. During these meetings, LWK coalition members asked students about their definition of living a healthy life and how they thought their schools could improve. The information from these conversations was summarized and incorporated into the Just Imagine It workshop.

During Just Imagine It, students were challenged to determine one or two realistic actions that can be done by August 2018 to make each school healthier. They also heard presentations from The Honorable James Davis, Chief Magistrate for Kershaw County, Thoyd Warren, Executive Director at Sumter County Disabilities & Special Needs Board, and State Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk.

Health Ambassadors

Following the Just Imagine It event, four students were selected to be Health Ambassadors for the Livewell Kershaw Coalition as a summer internship.  These Health Ambassadors were tasked with:

  1. Creating and implementing a student-led organization within their high schools by September 2018
  2. Creating an action plan to improve school health and wellness policies
  3. Identifying, tracking, and measuring desired outcomes for their school improvement plan through data tracking system, Measure What Matters, and AC-TAP.

Ambassadors are trained in the Model for Improvement, and collect data on a regular basis to use when making decisions. Health Ambassadors were led by coordinator Mary Reames. 

Health and Wellness Clubs

As part of their Livewell Kershaw internship, Health Ambassadors created health and wellness clubs in their respective schools.

Affecting Policy Change

"Adults don’t usually ask us what we think. It was really cool to be a part of this process." — Student from North Central High School

Brain Breaks

The Health Ambassadors presented their Brain Breaks program to school administrators and faculty at schools. As a result, both LEHS and CHS are moving forward with implementation. LEHS has made Brain Breaks a required part of the curriculum.

Teachers have been provided with packets of resources, tools, and demonstrations on activities to conduct. 

Moving forward, the Health Ambassadors are collecting and tracking data on their implemented strategies to improve the health and well-being of their peers.

Students are very engaged and leading the effort. They are designing their own solutions. Without their lived experience, policy change of brain breaks probably would not have happened.

What is a Brain Break?

  • Mental break to help students get energized and/or relaxed
  • Refresh the brain and help students stay focused
  • 3-5 minutes long
  • Get students moving! Blood flowing!
  • Keep students engaged.
  • Lowers stress and helps students relax
  • Lowers hypertension
  • Refocus during long class periods

Examples include:

  • Listening to music - “Playlist for Personal Power”
  • Stretching - Yoga Poses (ex: Warrior One)
  • Playing Games - Snap, Crackle, Pop
  • Mindfulness - Breath work and Meditation

Fruit Cart at North Central High School

Since September 2018, fruit is offered as an after-school snack to students on Tuesdays and Thursdays at North Central High School. This was the result of a $4,000 Blue Cross Blue Shield Wellness Inspired School Environment, or WISE, grant.

NCHS hopes to expand the program.

Partnership and collaboration were key ingredients for implementation. Partners for this project included State Rep Laurie Slade Funderburk, North Central High School staff and Health Ambassador Izzy Baipho. 

Data Driven

LWK Driver Diagram