The Public Research Center at the University of South Carolina's Arnold School was established through funding by the CDC in 1993.

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Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently awarded the Prevention Research Center at the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health a $4.35 million dollar grant.

The new funding will help continue the mission of the center as they reach out to rural and underserved populations.

"Our Prevention Research Center has now been funded for 20 years continuously and so for us this is another five years of funding," said Dr. Sara Wilcox.

Wilcox is a professor in the Department of Exercise Science and is the director of the Prevention Research Center at the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health.

She says the new grant will allow expansion of the program called Faith, Activity, and Nutrition, FAN for short.

"We are going to be working in faith-based organizations to help churches create healthier environments for their members and specifically in the area of physical activity and healthy eating," said Dr. Wilcox.

The first part of FAN will begin in Fairfield County working with churches of all denominations and then it will expand.

According to Dr. Wilcox, "The second part of our project, we will be moving statewide and working with two large religious denominations, the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church and then the Young Woman's Auxiliary of the Baptist Convention, which is predominately African-American Baptist Churches."

She says getting churches involved is important because over 90 percent of the people in the South describe themselves as being affiliated with some formal religious organization.

"The faith-based setting can play an important role in encouraging those behaviors in members, but also setting an example by having healthy options," said Dr. Wilcox.

Even if you are not part of church, she says there are some simple things we all can do to help reduce the risk of obesity and heart disease and improve our overall health.

Dr. Wilcox said, "Everyone can be physically active, walking is a great form of activity that does not cost a lot of money and is relatively safe, we have a lot of opportunities to eat healthy in our state, a lot of fresh produce."

The focus of the Arnold School's Public Research Center is improving health and preventing disease through physical activity.

The FAN program started in 2006 in a partnership will other South Carolina universities and the African Methodist Episcopal church.

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