South Carolina Maintains 42nd Ranking for Health Outcomes

Reprinted with the permission of the Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina. Kester Freeman, IMPH’s excutive director, serves on the board of the Alliance.

The United Health Foundation today released the 2015 America’s Health Rankings, based on 2012-2014 data. South Carolina was ranked 42nd in health outcomes, the same ranking as last year. This means that 41 other states are healthier than South Carolina.

The state improved in 23 of the 34 indicators used to calculate the Rankings – including childhood immunizations, infant mortality, and preventable hospitalizations; but it was not enough to improve the overall ranking. For Dr. Bruce Snyder, Vascular Surgeon and Chair of the Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina, this is not a surprise. “There is no shortage of organizations and people taking on the task of improving health and healthcare in South Carolina, which is why there was significant progress; but we are not as coordinated as we could be, yet, so other states are improving faster.”

The state’s poor health status is cause for concern among the business, government, health, and philanthropic communities. “It is a fact that where a person lives has a major impact on the quality and length of life that person will enjoy,” said Graham Adams, CEO of the SC Office of Rural Health, “and the health of the population is directly related to the economic health of the entire state.”

To address this concern, leaders of more than 50 public and private organizations have joined in a collective effort to advance the health of South Carolina residents while controlling the future cost of care. The collaboration, called the Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina, challenges its members to coordinate action on the creation and implementation of initiatives that will reduce disparities and significantly improve the physical and behavioral health of children and adults across the state by 2020.

“Alignment in purpose, resources, and direction with other organizations through involvement with the Alliance, and resulting partnerships, will maximize the potential for leveraging opportunities to create positive health outcomes for the citizens of the state of South Carolina,” said John Magill, Director of the SC Department of Mental Health.

According to Dr. Shawn Stinson, CMO of BlueCross BlueShield, “to be ranked better than 40, we need to close the gaps faster. In 2014 we had our lowest infant mortality in history, but our state would have had 103 fewer baby deaths if there was no difference in the infant mortality of White and African American babies.”

At the core of the strategies proposed by the Alliance to improve health in the state, is the need to close gaps in health outcomes. “We need to identify who is not thriving – our elderly, our working poor, our racial minorities, our rural residents, our people who struggle with a behavioral health condition but are too afraid to be stigmatized if they seek help,” said Lathran Woodard, CEO of the SC Primary Health Care Association, “we can then work with them as peers in finding solutions that are respectful of their culture, their experience, and their values.”

“There are many ways to continue moving the needle in a positive direction,” said Sabra Slaughter, Senior Advisor to the President of MUSC, “If we collaborate with each other and commit to working with the populations that are not doing well, we will get there sooner.” Lisa Wear-Ellington, CEO of the SC Business Coalition on Health adds “as individuals, we also have a role to play, all of us make choices every day that can put us, our families, our friends, and our employees on a path to better or poorer health.”

“Good health means we get to spend more time doing what we love with the people we love, and less dealing with our illnesses,” said Teresa Arnold, State Director of AARP, and Vice-Chair of the Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina. “Every person in South Carolina deserves a healthier life. Together, we can make it happen.”

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© 2015 South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health