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For Immediate Release
September 27, 2013

Pilot programs in rural counties encourage residents to eat healthier and move more

COLUMBIA, S.C – Community leaders from Bamberg, Fairfield and Lee counties presented updates on their local efforts to fight obesity during the statewide Unified: One Voice Against Obesity meeting held this week at the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control in Columbia. 

Unified: One Voice Against Obesity is an initiative that began at DHEC in 2012 to address South Carolina’s obesity epidemic. Today, two out of three adults in South Carolina are overweight or obese. Research conducted by DHEC shows that many of the state’s rural counties are disproportionately affected by obesity, physical inactivity and type 2 diabetes.

To help address this problem, DHEC has joined forces with community partners in Bamberg, Fairfield and Lee Counties to launch pilot programs to help more residents achieve a healthy weight. 

“Lee County is focusing on being the healthiest it can be by working with DHEC and the Healthy South Carolina Initiative (HSCI) to get all of our citizens involved,” said Ruby Gibbs Williams, HSCI Coordinator for Lee County. “We want people to eat better and move more to prevent obesity and reduce the prevalence of chronic disease in our county.”

DHEC is working with local schools and childcare organizations in all three counties to implement nutrition and physical activity programs in the classroom. At five Fairfield County schools, students participate in CATCH, a program where teachers and students plant and harvest fruit and vegetable gardens that they eat on site or in the classroom. Physical activity is also incorporated by walking to and from the garden and through planting, weeding and harvesting the fruits and vegetables they grow.

“Fairfield County is making great progress in tackling lifestyle factors associated with chronic diseases and obesity,” said Mac Russell, Director of the Fairfield Diabetes Education Center. “We have much ground to cover in altering the cultural and intergenerational norms that lead to poor health outcomes in Fairfield, because of this we look forward to seeing these initiatives take root in our county.”

In Bamberg County, the City of Denmark adopted an ordinance that requires the city to select a health tip each month that is shared with residents when they visit City Hall. Health tips range from encouraging people to learn their body mass index (BMI) to checking their blood pressure. 

“Our obesity work in Bamberg County is the result of the efforts of many people who are not satisfied with the status quo regarding health outcomes in the County,” said Dr. Leroy Davis of Voorhees College. “Ours is a work in progress that seeks to include additional stakeholders who want to reduce childhood and adult obesity in Bamberg County.”

This week’s Unified presentations from Bamberg, Fairfield and Lee counties are available online at  

More information on adult rates of obesity, diabetes and physical inactivity:
South Carolina:
Obesity = 31.6%
Diabetes = 11.6%
Physical inactivity = 25.1% 

Obesity = 41.5%
Diabetes = 12.6%
Physical inactivity = 31%

Obesity = 39.1%
Diabetes = 14%
Physical inactivity = 31%

Obesity = 38.2%
Diabetes = 13.1%
Physical inactivity = 31.8%


Contact Information:

Bamberg County: Dr. Leroy Davis, Voorhees College 
(803) 780-1349 or

Fairfield County: Ms. Mac Russell, Director of the Fairfield Diabetes Education Center 
(803) 712-0372 or 

Lee County: Ms. Ruby Gibbs Williams, Healthy SC Initiative Coordinator for Lee County
(803) 468-8340