Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice

Community Leaders

Pam Rush

Through the years, we’ve worked with exceptional individuals who understand local challenges facing their communities, and have the passion and the vision to create opportunities where people can make healthy choices where they live, work, learn, play and pray. We’re recognizing these individuals, who have been nominated by their peers and colleagues, to showcase their commitment to making the healthy choice, the easy choice.

As Director of Prevention Services at Axis I Center of Barnwell (Barnwell County’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse) and Chair of Eat Smart Move More (ESMM) Barnwell County, Pam Rush knows the important link between health disparities and substance abuse. That’s why prevention efforts in Barnwell County are aimed at creating positive changes by promoting health and wellness.

“The many successes we have had in Barnwell County are due to the dedicated team of community partners and their efforts to improve active living, access to healthy foods, and the safety of children walking/biking to and from school,” said Rush. “I feel my role is to bring people together with a common goal to address the needs of our county.  It has been my pleasure and honor to work within Barnwell County to bring about positive changes as we strive to make Barnwell County a healthier place to live, work, and play.”

Some of the successes Rush is referring to involve work associated with the Let’s Go! SC project and Barnwell County School Districts 19, 29, and 45. Through the Let’s Go! SC grant, Rush and other ESMM Barnwell County partners have helped schools make safety improvements as a result of walking assessments.

“The schools and school districts have been delighted by the safety improvements and the receipt of safety equipment,” said Rush. “The Axis I Center has enjoyed a very close collaborative relationship with the schools over the past 30+ years, and the partnership with ESMM Barnwell County has made those relationships even stronger.”

Rush says she’s seen an increase in community support and engagement since establishing the ESMM Barnwell County coalition in 2012. The county received funding from the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (SCDHEC) Active Community Environment grant in 2015 that jump started a lot of the work in the school districts. Some of the work Rush has assisted with include:

  • Providing safety equipment to Macedonia Elementary School that not only makes it safer for students to walk and bike to school, but also makes the drop off/pick up process safer for students and faculty crossing guards;
  • Adoption and implementation of an Open Community Use policy in District 19 in Blackville for their playground and walking track; and
  • Partnership with the County Ministerial Association to purchase playground equipment for Macedonia Elementary School.

The future looks bright for prevention services and education in Barnwell County. Rush says ESMM Barnwell County is currently collaborating with the Barnwell Family YMCA to refurbish its walking track, which was damaged by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and with Barnwell Elementary School/Barnwell School District 45 to install crosswalks and sidewalks that will give students and citizens safe access to the school.

“Both of these efforts will increase safe, affordable opportunities for physical activity, said Rush. “But, we didn’t do it alone. I would be remiss if I did not recognize our state partners for the support they have provided over the past 5 years.”

Barnwell County state partners include SC Safe Routes to Schools, ESMMSC, SCDHEC, and SC Department of Transportation.