New County Health Rankings Report Illustrates Health Trends and Opportunities for Improvement

The eighth annual County Health Rankings, released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI), finds that Beaufort County ranks healthiest in South Carolina while Marion County ranks least healthy. According to the 2017 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in South Carolina are Beaufort County, followed by Dorchester County, York County, Greenville County and Charleston County. The five counties in the poorest health are Marion County, Dillon County, Marlboro County, Lee County and Allendale County. The Report includes a number of useful measures to illustrate how health has changed over time and across counties.

Focusing on premature deaths, trends show that from 1997 to 2014, 33 counties in South Carolina have seen improvements in premature death rates, while one (Pickens County ) has seen worsening rates. The rest saw no change. Nationally, the 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 overall can be attributed to a swift increase in deaths among these younger populations. While many issues contributed to this rise, the report finds that the drug overdose epidemic is the leading cause of death among 25 to 44 year olds, and is therefore a clear driver of this trend. While drug deaths are also accelerating among 15 to 24 year olds, nearly three times as many of deaths in this age group result from homicide, suicide and motor vehicle crashes respectively.

This year’s Rankings report introduces a new measure, Youth Engagement, focused on people age 16 to 24 who were not in school or working, finding that about 4.9 million individuals—1 in every 8—fall into this category. Additionally, rates of youth disconnection are higher in rural counties (21.6%) in the South and West than in urban ones (13.7%). These measures can help communities identify and address youth disconnection by creating programs and opportunities targeting young adults.

The Rankings provides an easy-to-use snapshot which shows that where you live influences how well and how long you live. The local-level data demonstrates that good health is influenced by a number of factors beyond medical care, including housing, education, jobs and access to healthy foods. The data provided in the report can help guide counties as they develop initiatives to better the health and well-being of their communities. For more information, visit www.countyhealthrankings.org.

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© 2015 South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health