Communities, state agencies, businesses, health care providers, policymakers and other partners united in improving well-being.

Health issues affect every individual, family and economy in the communities throughout our state. It’s time for South Carolinians to address these challenges as opportunities to create a statewide culture that is committed to health. This requires involvement of all stakeholders to support partnerships, research and initiatives that allow for the development of solutions and resources dedicated to creating a healthier Palmetto State.

At the South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health (IMPH), we are dedicated to creating and sharing evidence-based information aimed at improving health and wellness statewide.

Through collaboration with South Carolina’s communities, health care providers, state agencies, academia and policymakers, IMPH works to turn stakeholders into partnerships that are creating solutions.

Reports like the “2019 County Health Rankings Report” released last week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI) are necessary tools for our organization, possibly collaborators, as well as the general public for staying informed on factors that have an effect on our statewide communities and their health.

The County Health Rankings Report, released annually since 2010, shows us exactly what contributes to the health of our state. The health of a community depends on various factors — ranging from individual health behaviors, to education and jobs, to the quality of health care as well as various environmental factors.

Data like that found in the 2019 County Health Rankings report helps communities understand how where people live, learn, work and play influences the health and life span of their families and community members. It also offers those of us looking to improve health throughout our state identify areas of need.

One area we must continue to address in South Carolina is that children living in poverty throughout the state ranges from 14 to 49 percent per county, with 22 percent of our overall population of youth currently living below the poverty line. The physical, mental and behavioral health challenges resulting from these conditions cannot be ignored.

While this report provides some new insights and updated numbers, awareness of the health challenges facing many of our communities throughout South Carolina is not new.

That’s why IMPH continues to focus on making investments in partnerships and initiatives that will improve the overall health of all of our communities through policy changes; however, there are still greater investments to be made. Support for IMPH and investments in health help fund greater collaborations, new research and initiatives and the reports that make them possible.

Becoming a partner in the fight for healthy communities today will help create a healthier Palmetto State for future generations. As South Carolinians, let’s unite in the commitment to enacting change and sparking a culture of health in all of our communities.

Megan Weis, DrPH, MPH, MCHES currently serves as the senior director of strategic engagement for the South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health (IMPH), an independent organization with the mission to inform policy to improve health and health care.

This article has been featured in the Greenville News, SCNow and Times & Democrat.