Health Policy Fellow Rep. Neal Collins Named SC Public Health Association Legislator of the Year
The South Carolina Public Health Association (SCPHA) recognized Rep. Neal A. Collins (R-Pickens) as the Douglas E. Bryant Legislator of the Year at the Spring Conference held May 25, 2016. This award recognizes an elected state legislator for sponsorship, service and support of important public health initiatives. Throughout the years, SCPHA has typically recognized long term service; however this year there is one legislator who in his second year was critical in the creation a bold initiative to create a culture of health in our South Carolina Legislature.
“Rep. Collins is new to the General Assembly, but has immediately shown that he is a leader on issues important to the health of our state,” said SCPHA president Johnese Bostic. “We are honored to be able to recognize his commitment to the health of the people of South Carolina.”
In 2014, he served as Chairman of the SC House Freshman Caucus, and he is a 2015 Fellow of the SC Institute of Medicine and Public Health’s Health Policy Fellows Program. He is currently out front on one very important issue affecting individual and community health – obesity. According to SCDHEC, two out of every three adults in South Carolina are overweight or obese. One out of three children in our state is considered obese or overweight. Obesity increases the chances of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and arthritis. Weight is also a factor in 32 percent of heart disease deaths each year. Given these startling statistics, Rep. Collins has been on a mission to make the State House a healthier place to govern. He is providing outstanding leadership in support of a public-private collaborative to encourage a healthier workforce. He has challenged his fellow legislators to make better food choices and increase their physical activity during this year’s session through A Healthier State House.
What started as an idea a few months ago at a session of the Health Policy Fellow’s Program has blossomed into a full blown wellness campaign as Rep. Collins worked with the South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA) and the Alliance of YMCAs to create A Healthier State House among state legislators and legislative staffers. Palmetto Health, Providence Hospitals, Hilton Head Hospital, Eat Smart Move More SC, SC Departments of Health and Environmental Control and Parks, Recreation and Tourism, and YMCAs across the state are providing education, health assessments, opportunities for physical activity, and other resources.
“Rep Collins is a man on a mission to make the SC State House a healthier place to govern and encourage his colleagues to set a healthy example for citizens to follow,” shared Roz Goodwin, Vice President for Community Engagement, South Carolina Hospital Association. “He has been able to get legislators from both sides of the aisle not only signed up but enthusiastically engaged and more active. A Healthier State House would not have happened without Rep. Collins as a leader and legislative champion.”
His passion and leadership has fostered support from two former governors, two constitutional officers, 25 out of 45 senators, and 92 out of 124 representatives thus far. The pledge includes using an activity tracker called Fitbit One along with the software and services provided by Fitbit Wellness. Needless to say, this creates healthy competition among the 100 plus lawmakers while inspiring both their constituents and communities to lead healthier, more active lives. Representative Collins is committed to raising awareness, securing additional support and elevating the campaign. This campaign is just a start to making quality of life a top priority through policy and partnership. Additionally, some of his topical sponsorship and/or support for efforts related to health include the following: CPR Instruction for high school students as part of comprehensive health education programs, reforms as it relates to standards for disability rights, child abuse and neglect, foster care, injury prevention and education in the schools.
Representative Neal A. Collins currently represents District 5 in Pickens County. A resident of Easley, South Carolina, he is an attorney who is licensed to practice in two states and serves on the Blue Ridge Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the Pickens District Board and Easley Chamber of Commerce. He graduated in 2004 from Furman University before earning his Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 2007. Representative Collins started his service in the House of Representatives in 2014 and currently serves on the Education and Public Works Committee. This committee focuses on the areas of Education, Highways, State House and Grounds, Railroad, and Aviation. He is also a member of the Transportation Sub-Committee.
About the South Carolina Public Health Association
Founded in 1921, South Carolina Public Health Association (SCPHA) is a statewide non-profit organization aimed at advancing the profession by serving Public Health Professionals who endeavor to improve population health. The mission of SCPHA is to advocate for healthy people and healthy communities; enhance member benefits through the promotion of educational, mentoring, and networking opportunities; and provide a forum to convene our partners. For more information, visit www.scpha.com.