Crossing the Aisle and State Lines: Lawmakers Unite in Well-being

Panel Discussion

Jennifer Wright panel Unite in Well-being

Moderator: Jennifer Wright

Director, Working Well, South Carolina Hospital Association

Neal Collins, JD

Representative, South Carolina House of Representatives

Jason Dunnington, PhD

Representative, South Carolina House of Representatives

Mary Franson

Representative, South Carolina House of Representatives

Laurie Slade Funderburk

Representative, South Carolina House of Representatives


MCHES® – 1.0 | ICHWC – 1.0


Proving well-being is a unifying value; bipartisan lawmakers in four states are crossing the aisle to make their State House a healthier place to govern, work and visit. Aligning evidence-based dimensions of Working Well, coordinating multi-disciplinary local and national partners and building on momentum from legislative champions, PSE and health status impacts are being realized. Initial catalyst, SC Rep. Neal Collins, leads by example leveraging social media to foster engagement in SC and recruit fellow lawmakers in MN, OK, VT to do the same. By delivering health promotion principles; awareness, access, opportunity, skill development, communication, built environment, motivating group challenges that encourage social connectivity, healthy eating and active living, a culture of well-being is emerging. Experience is rivaling traditional advocacy as veteran state SC has passed a school nutrition accountability bill, introduced healthy food access and state surgeon general bills, and installed a permanent walking-trail monument on hallowed Capitol grounds.


Presenter Bio(s):

Hon. Neal Collins, JD 
Neal is an attorney at The Hendricks Firm in Easley, SC, licensed to practice law in both North Carolina and South Carolina. He is an NCAA wrestling official. He is a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, first elected in 2014. Neal was elected freshman caucus chairman, serves on the Judiciary and Oversight Committees, and is the chairman of the Children’s Committee. In 2015, Neal was inspired to lead by example and make the SC State House a healthier place to govern. He sparked an idea that launched the A Healthier State House initiative and, as legislative champion, rallied his fellow lawmakers, lobbyists, and staff to join. Neal is now leading recruitment of additional States. He graduated from Furman University with a BA in political science and French and earned his JD from the University of South Carolina School of Law.


Hon. Jason Dunnington, PhD
Jason was elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives to represent House District 88 in 2014. He is a professor of sociology at Oklahoma City University and a licensed real estate agent for Keller Williams. He has served as the ranking Democrat on multiple committees including Education Appropriations and State Government Operations. In 2016, he was honored by The Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women with their prestigious Guardian Award for his work on Equal Pay for women, as well as Paid Family Leave and Earned Paid Sick Leave for all Oklahoma workers. Jason lives near downtown Oklahoma City and is an active member in his community. He is the proud father of a son and daughter, both who attend Oklahoma City Public Schools. Jason earned his master’s degree in theology from Nazarene Theological Seminary and PhD in sociology from University of Oklahoma.


Hon. Mary Franson
As a mom of three, Mary Franson was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2010. Now serving her 5th term, she represents District 8b encompassing the eastern half of Otter Tail County and northeastern half of Douglas County. Mary serves on Health and Human Services Finance, Higher Education, and is the Republican Lead on Early Childhood Education. In 2016, Mary decided to put her health back in her own hands and started working out after taking time off for “life.” She now does CrossFit 3-4 times/week, participates in the CrossFit Open and believes “health is wealth.” She wants to lead by example and inspire her constituents to be proactive rather than reactive in their health. In doing so, she believes the cost of healthcare in Minnesota can be bent. In her spare time, Mary enjoys spending time with her children, drinking coffee, playing golf and laughing.


Hon. Laurie Slade Funderburk
Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk has proudly represented South Carolina House District 52 since 2004. She serves on the Judiciary Committee and is Vice-Chair of the House Legislative Oversight Committee. A graduate of the University of South Carolina Honors College and the University of South Carolina School of Law, Laurie is a small businesswoman. Wife to Bill and mom to Slade (12) and Burch (8), Laurie is a founder of the local farmers market and supports local agriculture. She is an advocate for access to healthcare, and champions policies that promote healthy lifestyles, healthy communities, and a healthy South Carolina


Jennifer Wright, MPH
Jen is the Working Well director for the South Carolina Hospital Association, where she’s engaging and activating multi-sector employers, community partners, and legislators across the state to create cultures of wellbeing that support optional health and a thriving workforce. She works to align corporate values, workforce wellbeing, and community health by also serving as the Board Chair for Eat Smart Move More SC, the Worksite Workgroup Chair for Healthy Palmetto, and the Co-Chair for HERO’s Healthy Workplaces Healthy Communities committee. After beginning her career as a clinical exercise physiologist, then moving into community and workplace wellbeing, Jen joined the SC Hospital Association in 2011. A native of Illinois, she has spent her professional career of nearly 20 years in many facets of healthcare both in Illinois and South Carolina from clinical, community outreach, to corporate health promotion and wellbeing. She earned her BS in exercise science from Truman State University and her Masters of Public Health with a focus in health policy and administration from the University of Illinois Chicago.