Partner Spotlight: BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation

Partner Spotlight: BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation

The Wholespire Partner Spotlight Series shines a light on the remarkable collaborations and impactful initiatives of our valued partners. In this series, we highlight the incredible work being done by organizations and individuals who share our vision and commitment to ensure an equitable South Carolina, where everyone has access to healthy choices.

We recently caught up with Erika Kirby, executive director of the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation. The Foundation has been a long-standing partner of Wholespire. Their partnership has enabled hundreds of communities to increase opportunities for healthy food choices and physical activity across the state.

The BlueCross and BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation logo

What is the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation?

The BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation (Foundation), an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, was established in early 2000 with a vision to bridge health and health care in South Carolina. Its mission and commitment remain steadfast to identifying and supporting solutions to address gaps in care and serving as a change agent to support innovation and value-added public-private partnerships.

The Foundation is South Carolina’s only statewide state-based philanthropic organization focused exclusively on improving health. Since its first grant was awarded in 2003, the Foundation has supported projects and efforts in all 46 counties.

The Foundation supports organizations and communities across South Carolina. Aside from grant support, how does the Foundation achieve its mission?

The Foundation is committed to creating value beyond traditional grantmaking. As a statewide health funder, the Foundation uses both its financial and non-financial assets to maximize its impact and create value for those we serve. Examples of how the Foundation’s service to South Carolina extends beyond traditional grantmaking and financial support: 

  • We use our reputation to convene partners on key health issues.
  • We work with partners to minimize duplication and aim to increase coordination of organizations working to improve health, as well as to promote learning across communities and organizations.
  • Given our statewide footprint, we interact with a wide array of organizations and are aware of many health-related efforts occurring across South Carolina.  With this information, we frequently make connections across stakeholders and across communities. 

An example would be convening support for the South Carolina Social Determinants of Health Roadmap and engagement with the health-focused partners and members of the Alliance for Healthier South Carolina.  While not directly health-focused, the Foundation is also a member and involved in SC’s state association of nonprofit organizations and the state grantmakers network to stay abreast of issues and opportunities for South Carolina.  

One of your approaches is “Working Downstream and Upstream.” How does this approach impact health outcomes in SC?

The Foundation recognizes that South Carolina faces many complex health issues and has a unique position, given our statewide reach, to influence and lead the direction of initiatives to make an impact. Accordingly, the Foundation sees its role beyond a grantmaker to a change maker. Our values below convey our commitment to a diverse array of projects and approaches.

  • We support a continuum of approaches ranging from providing direct care for the economically vulnerable to advancing practice and policy, systems and environmental changes.
  • We prioritize efforts that will improve the health of future generations of South Carolinians.
  • We empower organizations to increase effectiveness towards improved health outcomes.
  • We support efforts that represent community and statewide priorities that are locally determined, culturally relevant and data-informed solutions.
  • We equip our partners to connect learning to action and use data for continuous improvement.
  • We are a catalytic partner, supporting organizations and programs as they gain sustainability by leveraging funds and we value innovative projects that can expand to multiple geographic areas in South Carolina.

The Foundation has the ability as a corporate philanthropic statewide health foundation to help discover, introduce, and advance new, different, or more effective ways to improve health and well-being and to improve the quality of health delivered to improve individual health outcomes. 

As a statewide organization, we balance scaling solutions statewide to supporting strategies that can most effectively address local health needs. The Foundation seeks to listen to community needs, analyze, and evaluate data, and understand local community assets and challenges. We are also respected for our approach to develop relationships that foster honest dialogue. We listen, suggest, and in many instances, co-create mutually beneficial solutions.

This commitment to serving South Carolina is communicated to key stakeholders across the state and positions the Foundation as both a source of information, accelerating action, and working to find innovative solutions to best serve South Carolina.

What are the priorities of the Foundation for the next 3-5 years?

Most recently, we have intentionally woven together and overlayed our funding pillars of access to care, workforce, improving the quality of services, and investing in the health and well-being of South Carolina children and families with an additional emphasis in three health priorities of diabetes, oral health, and mental health.

The Foundation amplifies different areas of focus annually, mostly within these noted priorities. However, we are always keeping an eye out for innovative approaches not yet tried so we balance defined priorities to needs and opportunities as we hear from partners.

Over the years, the Foundation has supported Wholespire and its work. What do you think has made Wholespire a good partner?

The Foundation views its grantees as partners, leveraging their capacity to improve health across South Carolina. We invest in strong relationships with key organizations and design initiatives that build a network of trusted partners with which we can listen, learn, ask, and receive candid ‘on the ground’ check-ins – all towards advancing action and impact.

Would you like to share any other important details about the Foundation?

We recently held our inaugural regional grantee appreciation events. These events were created to recognize the contributions of each and the potential of all. Health is local and we wanted to give grantees the chance to strengthen relationships with each other. We see the possibility and power that the cross-pollination of ideas between grantees will lead to even more positive change in the communities they serve.

Take a look at the Foundation’s website for impact stories and highlights as well as the Foundation’s new team members. 

BlueCross and BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation grantees in the Upstate
Upstate Grantees
BlueCross and BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation grantees in the Pee Dee
Pee Dee Grantees
The BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation funds initiatives around the state.
BlueCross and BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation grantees in the Midlands
Midlands Grantees
BlueCross and BlueShield of South Carolina grantees in the Lowcountry
Lowcountry Grantees
Healthy Palmetto partners are increasing healthy eating and active living opportunities

Healthy Palmetto partners are increasing healthy eating and active living opportunities

Getting multiple organizations with different missions on the same page isn’t an easy task. It takes a lot of coordination, planning and communication. But, Healthy Palmetto, the coalition responsible for implementing the healthy eating and active living portion of the SC State Health Improvement Plan, seems to be doing the right things. With financial support from Wholespire, they recently released their annual report indicating the progress being made by organizations on the ground across all six priority areas. You can see more detailed data and information by downloading the Health Palmetto Annual Report.

Improve Outdoor Environments for Early Care and Education

Grow Outdoors SC is transforming early childhood outdoor spaces into diverse, naturalized environments that spark play and learning.

Prioritize Physical Activity in Schools

SCDHEC and its partners are improving student health by enhancing physical education and creating more opportunities for physical activity before, during, and after school.

Promote Trail Connectivity

The South Carolina Trails Coalition is increasing trail connectivity in the state and promoting the use of trails through increased knowledge and outreach.

Expand Awareness of WIC

SCDHEC is expanding awareness of the benefits and services of the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program to increase enrollment of eligible participants.

  • A new online app to make it easier for families to pre-apply for WIC was launched. The app streamlines enrollment and recertification processes for families.

Increase Senior Enrollment in SNAP

The SC Department on Aging and SC Thrive are increasing enrollment of eligible older adults in SNAP through community-based outreach.

  • Over 139,00 SC residents 51 years of age or older who are eligible for SNAP are receiving SNAP benefits.
  • The SNAP for Seniors Toolkit was created and those assisting seniors to apply for SNAP benefits were trained. Updates to the toolkit are currently in process and will be released soon.

Increase Access to Healthy Food

The SC Food Policy Council is strengthening local food systems in South Carolina, addressing food insecurity through the health care system by expanding screening and referral tools and resources and exploring strategies to address community design for physical activity and access to healthy food.

  • Seven (7) local food policy councils received support from USC SNAP-Ed in partnership with the SC Food Policy Council. Multiple organizations in South Carolina received USDA funding to establish produce prescription programs.
  • Multiple organizations in South Carolina received USDA funding to establish produce prescription programs.
  • Active People, Healthy Nation Walkability Action Institute was held in South Carolina in 2023. Five (5) local communities received training and developed action plans to address walkability/moveability through community planning and design.

Building Bridges: A Collaborative Partnership Between Community Coalition and Schools

Building Bridges: A Collaborative Partnership Between Community Coalition and Schools

Get ready to learn about the exciting initiatives underway in our state that aim to bridge the gap between communities and schools! Join us as Rachel Fobare takes us on a journey through the implementation of Erin’s Law in our schools and shares valuable information about community resources that can support this law’s requirements. And that’s not all – we’ll also hear from Robin Cooper, who will discuss how schools and community partners can work together to improve student and community health by aligning their shared goals. This is a unique opportunity to discover how collaboration and partnerships can lead to positive outcomes for our communities, so don’t miss it!