New Rankings Shed Light on Where South Carolina Counties Could Improve Health

Beaufort County ranks healthiest in South Carolina and Marlboro County is the least healthy county in the state, according to the seventh annual County Health Rankings, released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI). The Rankings are available at

“Each year the Rankings provide an opportunity for communities in South Carolina to take a comprehensive look at where they are and where they are headed in terms of health,” said Dr. Megan Weis, Associate Director of Outreach and Program Development at the South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health. “This yearly check-in allows all of us in South Carolina to evaluate our work and areas where further efforts are needed.”

The Rankings are an easy-to-use snapshot comparing the health of nearly every county in the nation. The local-level data allows each state to see how its counties compare on more than 30 factors that influence health including education, housing, jobs, smoking, access to healthy food and more.

According to the 2016 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in South Carolina, starting with most healthy, are Beaufort County, followed by Dorchester County, York County, Charleston County and Greenville County. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are Marlboro County, Marion County, Williamsburg County, Dillon County and Darlington County.

“This year’s County Health Rankings once again illustrate that South Carolina’s rural counties are disproportionately ranked at the bottom of the list in both health factors and health outcomes,” said Dr. Graham Adams, CEO of the South Carolina Office of Rural Health. “In 2015, the South Carolina Office of Rural Health and our partners focused our work on some of these specific counties to better understand why they struggle with poor outcomes year after year. We hope that with a concerted effort to address the root causes of poor health, our rural communities can gradually begin to see improved health outcomes that match and exceed their urban counterparts.”

“The County Health Rankings show how important it is to examine all the conditions that impact wellbeing and can help families thrive,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, RWJF president and CEO. “Communities around the nation are using the County Health Rankings to drive improvements in education, housing, job training, healthy food options, and more, as they work to build a Culture of Health.”

This year, the Rankings took a closer look at the differences in health between urban, rural, suburban, and smaller metro counties and found that:

  • Rural counties not only have higher rates of premature death, but also nearly 1 in 5 rural counties saw rises in premature death rates over the past decade, while most urban counties have experienced consistent improvement.
  • Rural counties have higher rates of smoking, obesity, child poverty, teen births, and higher numbers of uninsured adults than their urban counterparts.
  • Large urban counties have lower smoking and obesity rates, fewer injury deaths, and more residents who attended some college.
  • Large suburban counties have the lowest rates of childhood poverty and teen births.

The 2016 Rankings Key Findings Report highlights some new measures including residential segregation among blacks and whites, drug overdose deaths, and insufficient sleep and how they contribute to health. Learn more about those findings at

“The Rankings data are only as valuable as the action it inspires and the lives it improves,” said Bridget Catlin, PhD, MHSA, co-director of the County Health Rankings. “Whether it’s addressing health gaps between counties or the concentration of poverty in rural or residentially segregated communities—targeting resources to the people and places in greatest need is essential to building a Culture of Health. The Rankings are an important springboard for conversations on how to expand opportunity for all to be healthy.”

The County Health Rankings & Roadmaps tools, which include a database of evidence-informed approaches, personalized coaching, and a range of other resources, can assist communities in their efforts to improve health.

To learn more about the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps in South Carolina, join Eat Smart Move More SC and IMPH on March 17 from 1-2 p.m. and March 24 from 1-2 p.m. for a two-part webinar series. This webinar series will provide an overview of the program, a summary of the 2016 SC County Health Rankings and how to use them, and a description of the tools and resources available to SC communities to improve health. Please note that both webinars will be recorded. Click here to learn more.

Also, save the date for the Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina’s Population Health Working Summit on May 20.  The summit will be face-to-face summit in 5 locations (Walterboro, Florence, Rock Hill, Greenville, and Columbia) connected by videoconference. The conference partially sponsored by funding from the County Health Rankings & RoadmapsClick here to learn more.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working with others to build a national Culture of Health enabling everyone in America to live longer, healthier lives. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

About the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute
The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute advances health and well-being for all by developing and evaluating interventions and promoting evidence-based approaches to policy and practice at the local, state, and national levels. The Institute works across the full spectrum of factors that contribute to health. A focal point for health and health care dialogue within the University of Wisconsin-Madison and beyond, and a convener of stakeholders, the Institute promotes an exchange of expertise between those in academia and those in the policy and practice arena. The Institute leads the work on the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps and manages the RWJF Culture of Health Prize. For more information, visit

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© 2015 South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health