LiveWell Greenville: Successfully promoting health and well-being

With the goal of making Greenville County one of the healthiest places to live in the nation, LiveWell Greenville - a partnership of dozens of public and private organizations - strives to promote and encourage health and well-being throughout the community. Formed three years ago by the Piedmont Health Foundation and hosted by YMCA of Greenville, the group focuses on crafting plans to create environments that make living well the easier choice.

Supporting initiatives like safe places to walk and bike, healthier foods in schools and workplaces, nutritious snacks in child care centers, and better access to parks, LiveWell uses an approach that combines education with changes in policy to bring about what is needed for a community to become healthier.   

"Education alone is not going to make the kind of changes that we need as a society to become healthier," said Eleanor Dunlap, LiveWell's lead facilitator. "If I know I need to eat better, but I work in a business where the vending machine has all unhealthy products, or if I live in a neighborhood that is high in crime and there are no sidewalks and no places to exercise, how am I going to do that?"

That's where LiveWell comes into play - working to create a culture of good health and well-being.

Realizing that it is difficult to maintain healthy lifestyles when the surrounding environment does not support healthy choices, the coalition works with schools, neighborhoods, workplaces, community centers, places of worship, child care centers, pediatricians and others to encourage and support healthy habits by raising awareness and by helping to bring about changes in their underlying infrastructure.

"[The programs] are having a tremendous impact, especially in our schools," said Debi Bush, a LiveWell board member and Greenville County School trustee. "When children are eating healthier food and practicing healthier lifestyles, they are not going to be absent as much and they are going to perform better."

Recently, LiveWell partnered with Greenville Rec District and their concessionaire, Rhino Concessions, increasing the number of healthy options that the District's waterparks offer on their menus. Prices on the products - which include things like salads, grilled chicken wraps and fruit cups - are comparable in price to traditional offerings and advertised equally.

 "We are about making the healthier choice more readily available, so that if you want to make the healthy choice, it's there for you to make," Dunlap said.

Other key projects include working with communities to provide greater fresh food access through initiatives like mobile markets, working with employers to cultivate healthy workplaces, encouraging transportation planning that supports healthy living, and developing policy to increase access to basic recreation facilities

And with current Center for Disease Control statistics stating that six out of ten adults and four out of ten children are overweight or obese, LiveWell went directly to healthcare providers to see what would be of best use for their patients. The result was the development of a comprehensive map that lists parks, recreation centers, farms and markets, CSA drop-off locations, schools, and walkable college campuses. Now, people who visit their doctor and learn the benefits of a healthy lifestyle can be better equipped to practice that lifestyle.

Citing a recent Journal of Preventative Medicine study that estimates 42 percent of Americans will be obese by 2030, Dunlap stresses the importance of the LiveWell Greenville initiatives.

"If we can succeed with these policy-level efforts, Greenville County will, ultimately, be a healthier place to live, work and play," she said.

Learn more about LiveWell Greenville and its partners by viewing this video. 

LiveWell Greenville Celebrates One Year Annniversary from Eleanor Dunlap on Vimeo.

James Richardson is a freelance writer and the publisher of the Travelers Rest Tribune. When he's not writing, James enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and two children at any one of many places across the Upstate.