South Carolina remained the ninth unhealthiest state in the country this year, according to the America’s Health Rankings report released Thursday by the nonprofit United Health Foundation.
The state held the same No. 42 spot on the country’s health list in 2014.
Louisiana had the worst health ratings in 2015, while Hawaii was the healthiest of the United States. North Carolina showed the biggest improvement, jumping six places in just one year.
The Palmetto State did have some highlights, including high immunization coverage among children and low rates of excessive drinking compared with other states. However it continues to face a mounting health challenge from obesity, diabetes and infant mortality, all of which disproportionately affect the state’s African-American population.
South Carolina continues to have more smokers than most other states, with 21.5 percent of the state’s adults saying they smoke compared to 18.1 percent nationally.
33%Increase of hospital costs in the past five years in S.C.
Reflecting the national trend, smoking steadily has decreased over the past three decades – more than 27 percent of adult South Carolinians smoked in 1990.
In 2010, the S.C. Legislature voted to raise the state’s cigarette tax to 57 cents a pack from 7 cents, the nation’s lowest tax. Since then, smoking among high school students has dropped by more than a third.
Despite these gains, South Carolina still has the country’s eighth highest smoking rate. Annual health care costs in South Carolina directly caused by smoking top $1.9 billion by a recent CDC estimate. Smoking-related productivity losses total $2.35 billion.
Babies born in South Carolina still are more likely to die before their first birthday than in many other parts of the country.
11.1 black infant deaths per 1,000 live births compared with 5.4 for white infants
South Carolina reported 7.2 deaths for every 1,000 live births, compared with the national average of 6. While the state’s infant mortality dropped to a record low in 2015, the racial disparity continued to increase. Black infants in South Carolina are twice as likely to die before their first birthdays as white babies.
Directly linked is South Carolina’s rank in the bottom four states for low birth weight, with 9.7 percent of babies born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces.
Obesity and diabetes
South Carolina consistently ranks among the Top 10 states with the highest obesity and diabetes rates, with a third of its population obese, the report says.
$975 Cost per South Carolina household for state and federal taxes from smoking-caused government expenditures
“This is just the people who self-report to the (Centers of Disease Control and Prevention) as obese in South Carolina,” said Rhonda Randall, senior adviser to the United Health Foundation. “The actual figure is likely to be higher.”
Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the state, with three deaths a day. The cost of care for all South Carolinians with diabetes is expected to be more than $4 billion by 2020, according to the Diabetes Initiative of South Carolina, a statewide research and education program.
“It’s important to look at how all of these factors are related, including things like air quality and violent crime in South Carolina,” Randall said, noting the state has the sixth-highest rates of violent crime in the country, according to the report.
“If parents are scared to let their kids play outside, that’s obviously going to have a health impact as well,” she said.