Dozens of Smith Medical Clinic patients will have a chance to lead a healthier lifestyle thanks to a $20,000 grant and a partnership with the Georgetown County Family YMCA and the Lowcountry Food Bank.
The CVS Health Foundation and the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics announced on July 17 that Smith Medical Clinic is one of three clinics in South Carolina to receive a $20,000 grant to help patients manage chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Smith Medical Clinic in Pawleys Island offers free services for low-income people without health insurance.
Anne Faul, the clinic's executive director, said she is thrilled that the clinic received this funding. She said the grant will help pay for its Health Matters program. That program includes a free membership at the YMCA on Browns Ferry Road in Georgetown.
"We are offering patients having trouble reaching health goals free YMCA memberships, giving them free access to Y facilities, including water aerobics, and enrolling them in Lowcountry Food Bank's health food-based cooking class called Cooking Matters," Faul said. "As long as they continue to use the YMCA facility at least eight times per month, we continue to pay for that membership."
Other clinics receiving the grants were Camden’s Community Medical Clinic of Kershaw County and Greenwood’s La Clinica Gratis of Community Initiatives Inc.
The CVS Health Foundation recently extended its commitment to the NAFC with $1 million in new grants. The South Carolina clinics are three of 49 free clinics across the country receiving funding as part of the foundation’s ongoing effort to make quality healthcare convenient and affordable for more Americans.
"The rising cost of healthcare can make finding quality and affordable care harder to come by for many Americans,” Eileen Howard Boone, president of the CVS Health Foundation, said in a press release. “Through our support of the NAFC, we’re able to increase access to quality care, improve chronic disease management and care coordination to help improve health outcomes for the most vulnerable patients and reduce health care costs in the communities we serve.”
Faul said there are many reasons why people live less than healthy lives. She said most of the time, it has to do with their surroundings or their inexperience.
"Many patients live in rural areas and it is not safe to walk on a highway or road with no sidewalks, so they don't have a safe place to work out," she said. "They also may not know how to work out."
Faul said the Smith Medical Clinic has been offering Health Matters, a pilot program for patients with diabetes and hypertension, for several years and she has been amazed at the response.
"We have a pretty low attrition rate given the number of people who drop out of gym memberships," Faul said. "We had a patient who lost over 60 pounds and another patient that lost 20-30 pounds. We have also had some who have decreased their dosage of blood pressure medication and are achieving better control of their diabetes."
Faul said with the support of the CVS Health Foundation and NAFC, the clinic is expanding the program. She said they now have 37 patients in the program, but have a goal to increase that number to 60.
"With this program, we are thrilled that 75 percent of our folks are making positive progress toward their health goals, including lowered blood sugar and blood pressure levels," she said. "And the changes have been lifestyle changes, some of hardest changes to make."
For more information about Smith Medical Clinic, visit its website at smithfreeclinic.org, or visit its Facebook page. The clinic is located at 99 Baskervill Drive in Pawleys Island.