2014 County Health Rankings Released

The South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health (IMPH) is assisting the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute in promoting the release of the 2014 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps.  For the fourth consecutive year, the Institute is serving as the state lead in disseminating this information.

Nearly every county in the country is ranked on health outcomes (how healthy we are) and on health factors (how healthy we can be).  According to the 2014 Rankings for South Carolina, the five healthiest counties in terms of health outcomes, starting with most healthy, are Beaufort, followed by York, Lexington, Edgefield and Greenville.  The five counties in the poorest health in terms of health outcomes, starting with least healthy, are Marion, Marlboro, Bamberg, Dillon and Lee.  In terms of health factors, Beaufort ranks as the healthiest county followed by Dorchester, Lexington, Greenville and York.  The unhealthiest counties in South Carolina in terms of health factors are Allendale, Marlboro, Jasper, Marion and Dillon.  To learn more about the South Carolina Rankings, please visit http://www.countyhealthrankings.org.

“The annual Rankings update provides a tool for local stakeholders to set benchmarks for improvement and examine trends in their communities, said Dr. Megan Weis, IMPH Associate Director of Outreach and Program Development.  “The measures show how health is impacted by where we live, learn, work and play.  Everyone can do something to improve health in their community.”

Examples of specific measures used to calculate the Rankings include: rates of childhood poverty, rates of smoking, obesity levels, teen birth rates, access to physicians and dentists, rates of high school graduation and college attendance, access to healthy foods, levels of physical inactivity and percentage of children living in single parent households.  This information helps counties see where they are doing well and where improvement is needed to ensure that every community is working towards becoming a healthy place to live.

A new measure included in the 2014 Rankings considers the availability of mental health providers, including psychiatrists, licensed clinical social workers, counselors and advanced practice nurses specializing in mental health care.  Nationally, the availability of mental health providers in the healthiest counties in each state is 1.3 times higher than in the least healthy counties.  In SC, the availability of mental health professionals in the healthiest county (Beaufort) is 1.8 times higher than in the least healthy county (Marion), with the statewide ratio of residents to mental health providers of 1,024 to 1.

IMPH is addressing mental health concerns through the recent launch of a behavioral health taskforce comprised of behavioral and mental health professionals and stakeholders from across South Carolina.  The taskforce is examining a set of priority areas related to improving care and outcomes to better serve our residents with behavioral health challenges.

Maya Pack, IMPH Associate Director of Research and Strategic Initiatives, states, “The taskforce is focused on making recommendations to enable significant improvements to behavioral health services in our state.  We will be releasing a report in early 2015 with actionable recommendations related to the funding and financing of behavioral health services, the need for integration of behavioral health services and the need for successful community resources for residents living with a behavioral health condition.”

Housing and transit is another new focus area for 2014.  Severe housing problems, driving alone to work and long commutes serve as the new measures.  Driving contributes to physical inactivity, obesity and environmental pollution.  Additional added measures include access to exercise opportunities and food environment index data, which contribute to the focus area of diet and exercise.

The County Health Rankings illustrate what makes people sick or healthy, while the County Health Roadmaps show what we can do to create healthier places to live, learn, work and play. The Roadmaps are about making changes to improve our health by building connections with local and national partners.  Together people from all different areas, education, transportation, public health, business and more can use the Roadmaps to implement strategies to improve health.  To learn more about the County Health Roadmaps, visit the following website: http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/roadmaps.

Interested individuals may also learn more at the “7th Annual Transforming Health Symposium” April 2,2014, where Dr. Julie Willems Van Dijk, County Health Roadmaps Deputy Director, will be speaking on “How to Use County Health Rankings to Improve Health Outcomes.”  The purpose of the two day symposium is to create a dynamic forum for active learning and knowledge sharing among the individuals and organizations that are working collaboratively to transform health and health care in South Carolina.  For registration and conference information visit “A Community of Influence.”

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© 2015 South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health