Ranking the healthiest counties in South Carolina

How healthy is your county?

March 29, 2017 - 10:30 am

A recent study from the Robert Wood Johns Foundation and the Wisconsin Population Health Institute ranks the health of Palmetto State counties.  Below is a copy of their press release.


Princeton, N.J. and Madison, Wis. - Beaufort County ranks healthiest in South Carolina and Marion County is the least healthy county in the state, according to the eighth annual County Health Rankings, released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI). The Rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org.


"The County Health Rankings help to paint a picture of the current status of health in our local communities in South Carolina," said Kester Freeman, Executive Director of the South Carolina Institute of Medicine & Public Health. "The Rankings illustrate how healthy we are today while highlighting the areas where improvement is needed. As we track our progress each year, this information helps to keep all sectors of our communities informed on ways we can improve the health and well-being of all of our citizens."


An easy-to-use snapshot that compares counties within states, the Rankings show that where you live influences how well and how long you live. The local level data makes it clear that good health is influenced by many factors beyond medical care including housing, education, jobs, access to healthy foods, and more. This year we took a closer look at premature deaths - or deaths that occur among people under age 75. Exploring South Carolina'spremature death trends from 1997 to 2014, we find 33 counties have seen improvements in premature death rates, while one has seen worsening rates and the rest saw no change.  


The Rankings Key Findings Report reveals that drug overdose deaths are fueling a dramatic increase in premature deaths nationally because of an increase in deaths among 15 to 44 year olds. From 2014 to 2015, 85 percent of the increase in premature deaths can be attributed to a swift increase in deaths among these younger populations. The Rankings Key Findings report reveals that while myriad issues contributed to the rise, the drug overdose epidemic is the leading cause of death among 25- to 44-year olds and is a clear driver of this trend. Drug deaths are also accelerating among 15- to 24- year olds, but nearly three times as many people in this age group die by homicide, suicide, or in motor vehicle crashes.


"The County Health Rankings show us that where people live plays a key role in how long and how well they live," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, RWJF president and CEO. "The Rankings allow local leaders to clearly see and prioritize the challenges they face - whether it's rising premature death rates or the growing drug overdose epidemic - so they can bring community leaders and residents together to find solutions."


According to the 2017 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in South Carolina, starting with most healthy, are Beaufort County, followed by Dorchester County, York County, Greenville County, and Charleston County. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are Marion County, Dillon County, Marlboro County, Lee County, and Allendale County.


This year's Rankings also introduce a new measure focused on young people, those 16 to 24, who are not in school or working. About 4.9 million young people in the U.S. - 1 out of 8 - fall into this category. Rates of youth disconnection are higher in rural counties (21.6 percent), particularly those in the South and West, than in urban ones (13.7 percent).

"Young adults who are not in school or working represent untapped potential in our communities and our nation that we can't afford to waste," said Julie Willems Van Dijk, PhD, RN, director of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. "Communities addressing issues such as poverty, unemployment, and education can make a difference creating opportunities for all youth and young adults. The County Health Rankings are an important springboard for conversations on how to do just that."


Graham Adams, Chief Executive Officer of the South Carolina Office of Rural Health shared, "The Rankings have become an important tool for communities that want to improve health for all. Dillon County for example has used the Rankings to obtain community buy-in to develop a number of initiatives now underway to expand health opportunities for residents, including increasing access to healthy, affordable foods in underserved communities."

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