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Upstate counties rank high in health factors, outcomes

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When it comes to being healthy, five Upstate counties can tout being among the healthiest in South Carolina.

According to the latest County Health Rankings report issued by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, Greenville County ranked No. 2 in its health factors and No. 4 in health outcomes, making it among one the healthiest counties in the state. The county’s health factors ranking was the same as 2016 while the health outcomes was an improvement of one place over 2016.

“Greenville County fared well in this report and is an example of what can happen when many people across the community work together,” said Dr. Catherine Chang, chief medical officer for Greenville Memorial Hospital.

Beaufort County earned the distinction of being the healthiest county as it achieved a No. 1 ranking in both factors and outcomes. Charleston County was No. 3 in health factors and No. 5 in health outcomes.

The Upstate counties that ranked highest in both categories were Pickens County (No. 9 in both factors and outcomes), Oconee County (No. 12 in outcomes and No. 11 in factors), Spartanburg County (No. 10 in factors and No. 14 in outcomes) and Anderson County (No. 15 in both categories).

“Our work with our partners in the community around Spartanburg’s Way to Wellville and The Road to Better Health is beginning to pay off,” said Kathy Dunleavy, president and CEO of the Mary Black Foundation.

Spartanburg County jumped six spots in health factors and two places in outcomes. When the study began in 2011, the county was No. 19 and has moved to No. 14 overall.

“Each year we wait with anticipation to see if our efforts are truly making a difference,” said Renee Romberger, vice president of community health policy and strategy for Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System.

The health outcomes category ranked length of life and quality of life in each county. The length of life measures premature death — or life lost before the age of 75 — while quality of life looks at low birthweight and the average number of poor mental and physical health days reported.

Health factors took a deeper look at health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and the physical environment. Those categories were drilled down further to include tobacco use, diet and exercise, alcohol and drug use, access to care, quality of care, education, employment, income, air and water quality, and housing and transit.

“The County Health Rankings show us that where people live plays a key role in how long and how well they live,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in a news release. “The rankings allow local leaders to clearly see and prioritize the challenges they face — whether it’s rising premature death rates or the growing drug overdose epidemic — so they can bring community leaders and residents together to find solutions.”

In Greenville County, there has been a trend of increasing adult obesity. According to the report, the county went from 23% in 2004 to 30% in 2010, but that figure has gone down to 28% in 2017. The number of those uninsured in Greenville County has dropped to 15% in 2017 from a high of 21% in 2010.

Some other highlights from the report include:

  • 36% of adults in Pickens County have a long commute and drive alone, contributing to the physical environment of the county;
  • The ratio of primary care physicians to residents is 1,710:1 in Oconee County;
  • Spartanburg County was near the top in the country for diabetes monitoring for Medicare patients with 89%. The top U.S. performers were at around 91%;
  • Anderson County had 72% of those enrolled in Medicare age 67-69 get mammogram screenings. The national top performers were around 71%;
  • 35% of adults in Abbeville County were rated as being obese which was above the state average of 32%;
  • In Greenwood County there is a primary care physician for every 980 residents, making it one of the best ratios in the state and the nation.

From 2016 to 2017 most Upstate counties moved only slightly or maintained their ranking. Anderson County had the biggest jumps, falling back four places in health outcomes and six spots in health factors.

Across the state, Marlboro, Dillon, Lee, Allendale and Marion counties ranked the lowest in the state in both factors and outcomes. Healthier regions include the Lowcountry counties of Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley; the Midlands counties of Lexington and Richland and the Upstate counties of Oconee, Pickens, Greenville, Spartanburg and York.

Despite the forward progress of some Upstate counties in the rankings, health officials said they were, by no means, satisfied with the results and that there was still room for improvement.

“We know there is still much work to be done and there are still people in our community who need help accessing resources and services,” said Chang. “We must keep striving to create a healthier community.”

For more information on the report, visit countyhealthrankings.org.

Reach Matthew Clark at 864-720-1222.

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