Faith, Activity and Nutrition program funded through grant

June 9, 2014


The Prevention Research Center at the Arnold School of Public Health celebrated its 20th anniversary at a reception this past October. The center will continue its work to improve the health
of communities with a $4.35 million grant from the CDC.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has awarded a $4.35 million grant to the Prevention Research Center (PRC) at the Arnold School of Public Health.

The PRC at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School was established through funding by the CDC in 1993, and has been funded continuously since that time.  The new award will enable Dr. Sara Wilcox, a professor in the Department of Exercise Science, and her colleagues to implement and disseminate a faith-based program, called Faith, Activity and Nutrition (FAN). Designed to increase physical activity and encourage healthy eating in South Carolina, the program will have an emphasis on rural and underserved populations.

"Churches are natural sites for health promotion because they serve people from all walks of life, including those who live in rural and underserved communities that regularly experience high levels of obesity, heart disease and other health risk factors," said Wilcox, director of the PRC.

Wilcox, in partnership with several S.C. universities and the AME church, developed the FAN program with funding from a National Institutes of Health grant in 2006. The new CDC funding will allow Wilcox, working with collaborators at USC, Clemson University, Fairfield Behavioral Health Services, the State Baptist Young Woman’s Auxiliary Health Ministry and the S.C. Conference of the United Methodist Church, to implement and evaluate the program in South Carolina churches. The grant also will involve working with DHEC as well as other community groups in the areas of physical activity and healthy eating.

The first phase of the study will focus on Fairfield County, and the second phase will expand the FAN program statewide.

"This new grant allows our center to continue its well-established work of promoting physical activity in partnership with South Carolina communities, while at the same time expanding our reach to churches," said Wilcox. "Nearly 90 percent of people in the South report a formal religious affiliation. Thus, churches have great potential for reaching groups that experience marked health disparities, including racial minorities and rural populations."

PRCs are committed to conducting prevention research and are leaders in translating research results into public health policies and practices that drive major sustainable community changes that can prevent and control chronic diseases and improve overall health. The focus of the Arnold School’s PRC is on improving health and preventing disease in communities through physical activity.

Current programs under way at the USC PRC include a walking program in Sumter County, participation in the CDC Healthy Aging Research Network, participation in the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network, and a study on food deserts in two S.C. communities.

Among the PRC's successes:

  • The PRC developed a strong collaboration with the local group Sumter County Active Lifestyles (SCAL), which began as an advisory board to the PRC to the 1999. Over the years, SCAL and the PRC worked together on a variety of programs to help Sumter County residents become more physically active through environmental and policy changes.


  • The PRC has been a member of several CDC thematic networks. These include membership in the CDC Healthy Aging Research Network since its inception in 2001, and membership in the S.C. Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network since 2009.
  • The PRC received two awards from the CDC PRC National Community Committee, the Community Based Participatory Research Best Practice Award (2011) and the Community Partnership Engagement Award (2010) for "fostering close collaboration with the local community."


  • In addition to CDC PRC funding, the PRC has been the recipient of many grants and contracts from the CDC, NIH, the Association of Schools of Public Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Mary Black Foundation.

For more information on the Prevention Research Centers and a map and complete listing of their locations, please visit CDC’s Web site at

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