Local organizations in Cleveland County are joining together to make a difference in their community. The Partnership for Community Prosperity project – jointly created by Cleveland County Schools, Cleveland County Government, and Partners Health Management – is a long-term health improvement initiative addressing social factors impacting community health in the county.
“Partners believes strongly in our mission to improve lives and strengthen communities,” said Rhett Melton, Chief Executive Officer for Partners. “There are no better opportunities to achieve this than by creating a community-based program focused on solving the core problems impacting health in a community like Cleveland County.”
Social factors impacting health—also known as social determinants of health—are conditions in an area that directly affect a population’s health, such as poverty, safety, access to healthy foods and water, and education. The only way to improve these conditions is through community education, community support, and direct community involvement.
The Partnership for Community Prosperity is based in Graham Elementary School. It uses the Collective Impact Model to address the social determinants of health at the community level. The model guides the community to adopt a culture of continuous improvement by using existing resources to eliminate local, social disparities.
Concerning areas in need of improvement for Cleveland County are the number of single-parent households, the number of children in poverty, the number of teens giving birth, and workforce readiness. By improving these areas, the project will directly impact poverty, access to mental health services, and substance use for the children of Cleveland County.
“The Cleveland County Board of Commissioners have been steadfast over the past decade, through tremendous Economic Development partnerships, to attract good companies and grow Cleveland County’s job base,” said Cleveland County Manager Jeff Richardson. “As a result, unemployment has decreased dramatically over that time. Workforce readiness, poverty, and overall community health are our community’s next big challenges. All three of these issues go hand-in-hand and this initiative will attempt to tackle them simultaneously. We are proud to be a part of the project and believe these efforts will have a positive, long-lasting impact on our community.”
“Cleveland County Schools is extremely excited about the opportunities presented with this partnership,” said Dr. Stephen Fisher, Cleveland County Schools Superintendent. “The ability to enhance our community is most exciting. Cleveland County is blessed to have so many community agencies willing to partner together to build a better tomorrow for everyone.”
The collaboration between community organizations is building momentum and is already producing life-improving results, including:
- Parents, grandparents, and other adults in the community are earning diplomas through the project’s GED program.
- Adults also have access to a workforce readiness and continuing education program.
- The partnership staffs a full-time nurse who acts as a case manager and health educator to teach adults about healthy choices and lifestyles for themselves and their families.
- The Transportation Administration of Cleveland County offers free rides, seven times a day, to eight key locations, including the library, the County Health Department, the Ollie Harris Behavioral Health Center, the Department of Social Services, the hospital, grocery stores, Cleveland Community College, and a primary care provider.
- Children in the community can get free haircuts from a local barber.
- Carolinas Healthcare Systems and Shelby Children’s Clinic established a telemedicine program for youth up to age 17.
- The Boys and Girls Club offers an after-school program for up to 60 students. Children can also participate in a mentor program.
- During the three-week breaks for the year-round school, the YMCA conducts child character development classes.
- Gardner-Webb University hosted a fourth-grade fieldtrip to their campus for a day of learning and exploration to experience various facets of life and health.
Social Determinants of Health
The social determinants of health are the conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play, including:
- Economic Stability, including poverty
- Social and Community Context, including community support and socialization
- Health and Health Care, including access to healthy food and water
- Neighborhood and Built Environment, including housing, transportation, and safety
Partnership for Community Prosperity Collaborators
Chris Gash—Community Coordinator, Partnership for Community Prosperity
Chris Gash leads the Partnership for Community Prosperity in Cleveland County as its Community Coordinator. He provides direct support for all community-driven projects, manages data collection and analysis, and reports on progress.
“This will be a life-changing project for Cleveland County,” – Chris Gash