Advocacy program put Sumter County community leaders on path to change the public's health

February 14, 2011

sumter photo

The Community Advocacy and Leadership Program linked
the Arnold School and Sumter County community leaders,
including (from left) Linda Pekuri, Sumter County Active
Lifestyles executive director; Ericka Burroughs, Prevention
Research Center; Gwen White, Salterstown Community
Center; Jacquelyn Session, Salterstown Community
Center; Lottie Spencer, Broad Street Community Faith Warriors;
Raymond Mack, Salterstown Community Center;
Juanita Britton, Rembert Area Community Coalition;
and Sylvia Flint, Prevention Research Center.
(Photo by Joe Perry/The Item)

An advocacy training program by the Arnold School of Public Health's Prevention Research Center has a South Carolina community on its feet and stepping up to show other towns and cities how they can improve their health.

Community leaders in Sumter County have learned to become more effective change-agents for community health and to encourage their fellow citizens to become more physically active at the same time.

The PRC at the University of South Carolina has worked with the Sumter County Active Lifestyles organization to give local community leaders the skills to bring about needed changes and to provide them with the know-how to obtain additional financial support, such as competitive grant aid to fund their endeavors.

The Community Advocacy and Leadership Program, developed by the PRC, has provided training in leadership, teamwork, media and policy advocacy and other community health development skills. The program was developed through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Patricia A. Sharpe, a co-investigator at the PRC and a research professor in the Arnold School's department of exercise science, said, "Training in community capacity is part of the Prevention Research Center's mission that complements the community-based participatory research objectives."

By learning community advocacy skills, community partners in Sumter County become even better research partners, as well as effective agents of change in their communities, she said.

"In the coming years, we will expand participation beyond Sumter County, with the goal of making our program a model in the state and beyond," said Sharpe, the principal investigator for the Community Advocacy and Leadership Program.

Linda Pekuri, executive director of Active Lifestyles, pulled together leaders from three community groups groups, including the Broad Street Community Faith Warriors, the Rembert Area Community Coalition and the Salterstown Community Center, to take part in the year-long program that wrapped up recently with a special graduation ceremony. The monthly workshop topics included effective communication, community assessment, media promotion and policy advocacy, cultural sensitivity, meeting facilitation, strategic planning and community resources and technology. In addition, participants will continue to receive a year of technical assistance.

"I'm excited to see the community representatives translate the information and skills learned to enhance their communities," said Sylvia Flint, the project's community development specialist who facilitates the workshops and provides technical assistance to the communities.

Ericka Burroughs, of the PRC and the project evaluator, said the program has enabled community leaders to hone their leadership skills in an effort to garner civic support for needed change and to promote outdoor exercise and community health.

"That's our main goal - to have people healthy and in an active environment," she said.

The community groups made improvements at the VIM Park in the Broad Street Community of Sumter and purchased playground equipment in the Salterstown and Rembert communities – enhancements that are designed to lead increased community physical activity among children and adults.

email this page       print this page

Columbia, SC 29208 • 803-777-7000 •