Columbia, South Carolina resident Rhonda Marshall was a model patient. After receiving a kidney transplant 10 years ago, she routinely visited her doctor for health checkups and worked hard to stay healthy. She decided to visit Palmetto Health for a free screening, which included a test of her hemoglobin A1C, or HbA1C.
Testing one's HbA1C measures the average level of blood sugar over the past three months, and helps determine whether a patient needs further treatment to help prevent Type 2 diabetes, says Tiffany Sullivan, director of the Diabetes Health Initiative at Palmetto Health.
"It's a test that we at Palmetto Health provide to high risk adults at nearly all of our screenings," Sullivan says.
Marshall says she was shocked to find out after her screening that she had an elevated A1C, and that she was considered pre-diabetic. In an effort to delay—and perhaps even prevent—the onset of Type 2 diabetes, Marshall joined Palmetto Health's Diabetes Prevention Program and now eats healthier and is more physically active—two key components of the six-month program. And she isn't stopping at working to keep herself healthy—she's helping others, too, by volunteering throughout the community, advocating for healthy living in both her neighborhood and through her work at the library.
"I'm working on getting programs started at the library to encourage people to start exercising and to teach participants how to eat and cook healthier," Marshall says. "If I can do it, others can too."
South Carolina ranks as the seventh highest state in the nation in percentage of adults with diabetes. In an effort to help patients live healthier, more fulfilling lives, Palmetto Health recruits individuals for its Diabetes Prevention Program through health screenings and provides supervised exercise, nutrition classes and counseling for pre-diabetics. Adults enrolled in the program have made significant health improvements over the past three years, including 64 percent showing measurable improvements in health indicators such as body mass index, weight, blood pressure, waist circumference and A1C levels, a blood test used to gauge how well a person is managing his or her diabetes.
The program is just one of many community-focused initiatives offered by Palmetto Health, the recipient of the 2014 Foster G. McGaw Prize for Excellence in Community Service, sponsored by The Baxter International Foundation, the American Hospital Association and Health Research & Educational Trust. The Foster McGaw Prize has awarded more than $5 million to 129 organizations over nearly 30 years. The healthcare system was named a finalist for the award in 2011.
The region's largest, most comprehensive, locally owned and governed, not-for-profit health resource, Palmetto Health treats nearly half a million patients each year at its five acute-care hospitals, expansive physician practice network and dozens of affiliated clinics and specialty care practices. The organization is dedicated to not only advancing health quality and patient safety, but also to providing care to patients with compassion. Created in 1998 through the merger of two of the area's major hospital systems, Palmetto Health contributes 10 percent of its bottom line to programs and services for indigent, uninsured and underserved populations in its service area. After 16 years, the organization has funded $42 million for these community programs, expanding access to care and eliminating the drastic healthcare disparities within the socioeconomically and racially diverse communities it serves.
"Palmetto Health's outstanding community benefit programs target the root causes of poor health - whether physical, mental or emotional," said John O'Brien, chair of the Foster G. McGaw Prize Committee. "Through numerous initiatives, the system provides much needed care to the underserved, encourages residents to take charge of their health, and addresses the mental and emotional well-being of its community. To succeed with these programs, Palmetto Health leaders work in partnership with many other organizations, and together form the foundation of a strong and sustainable community commitment."
Each year, this $100,000 prize is presented to a healthcare organization that provides innovative programs that significantly improve the health and well-being of its community. The long-running prize, first awarded in 1986, inspires hospitals, health systems and communities to assess and implement impactful healthcare initiatives. Palmetto Health programs such as the Diabetes Prevention Program, preventative and emergency dental health services, education and awareness programs for teens and new parents and support groups for breast cancer survivors and those with mental illnesses, have served numerous community members who previously lacked adequate healthcare due to financial or accessibility limitations.
"One of the greatest blessings in life is to have good health, and there are many people in our community who don't have that," said Vince Ford, Palmetto Health's Chief Community Health Services Officer. "Palmetto Health partners with community and civic groups to help empower people to take charge of their health. This is part of Palmetto Health's core mission, and it is a privilege to be able to help so many, both within our health system and beyond."
Read more about Palmetto's innovative programs in the press release.