Annual Rankings Give South Carolina Counties Roadmap to Improve Health

Beaufort County is Still Healthiest In South Carolina;
Lee County Remains Poorest in Health, According To New Rankings

Madison, Wis., and Princeton, N.J. – Beaufort County continues to have the healthiest residents in South Carolina and Lee County remains the least healthy county in the state, according to the annual County Health Rankings, released today by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. According to the Rankings, residents of Lee County are nearly two times more likely to die a premature death than those in Beaufort County.

This is the second year of the County Health Rankings, the most comprehensive report of its kind to rank the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states by using a standard way to measure how healthy people are and how long they live. The Rankings helps everyone see how where people live, learn, work and play influence how healthy they are and how long they live.

According to this year’s Rankings, the 10 healthiest counties in South Carolina, starting with most healthy, are Beaufort, Lexington, York, Greenville, Dorchester, Charleston, Pickens, Berkeley, Richland, Kershaw. The 10 counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are Lee, Allendale, Dillon, Williamsburg, Orangeburg, Bamberg, Marlboro, Marion, Chesterfield, Chester. The healthiest of South Carolina’s 46 counties are in the northwest and southeast of the state; the least healthy counties are primarily in the northeast and southwest of South Carolina.

Some highlights of what the Rankings show:

  • The rate of premature death in Lee County is nearly twice that in Beaufort.
  • 37% of adults in Lee County are obese, compared to 20% in Beaufort.
  • The percentage of children living in poverty in Lee County is twice that in Beaufort.

“The Rankings help counties see what is affecting the health of their residents are so they can see where they are doing well, where they need to improve, and what steps they need to take as a community to remove barriers to good health,” says Patrick Remington, M.D., M.P.H., Associate Dean for Public Health, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

“The County Health Rankings are a valuable tool for communities in South Carolina,” adds Lee Pearson, DrPH, MS, director of the South Carolina Public Health Institute.  “By compiling data from multiple sources the Rankings present information in an easy to understand way.  Communities can use them to identify and prioritize problems and work with others to develop solutions.”

The Rankings, available at, includes a snapshot of each county in South Carolina with a color-coded map comparing each county’s overall health ranking.  Researchers used five measures to assess the level of overall health or “health outcomes” for South Carolina by county: the rate of people dying before age 75, the percent of people who report being in fair or poor health, the numbers of days people report being in poor physical and poor mental health, and the rate of low-birthweight infants.

The Rankings also looks at factors that affect people’s health within four categories: health behavior, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment. Among the many health factors they looked at: rates of adult smoking, adult obesity, excessive drinking among adults, and teenage births; the number of uninsured adults, availability of primary care providers, and preventable hospital stays; rates of high school graduation, adults who have attended college, children in poverty; and community safety; access to healthy foods and air pollution levels.

“The County Health Rankings help everyone see that much of what influences our health happens outside of the doctor’s office and where we live matters to our health,” says Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “The good news is that there are things counties can do right away to help their residents lead healthier lives. We hope this second annual release of County Health Rankings data will spur all sectors – government, business, community and faith-based groups, education and public health – to work together to find solutions and take action and implement programs and policy changes to improve health.”

Lavizzo-Mourey also said that the Foundation is launching a new program in conjunction with the Rankings to support communities that are working collaboratively to improve the health of their residents. This new initiative expands the scope of the Mobilizing Action Toward Community Health, or MATCH project, helping communities translate the Rankings into action.  “We want to help communities collaborate on strategies that work to improve health,” she said.

For more information, please visit

Click here to access South Carolina’s Rankings directly.

Connect with IMPH:

Join our mailing list

© 2015 South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health