What makes a community healthy and livable? Businesses, governments and community stakeholders have grown increasingly interested in understanding the health, well-being and livability of our area. The World Health Organization says good health is linked to economic growth through higher productivity, demographic changes and education.
On the whole, Columbia has begun to make real progress on quality of life: We’ve seen marked improvement in unemployment and median household income. Premature mortality is decreasing, as Columbia residents seek preventive care such as mammograms and monitor such conditions as diabetes more regularly.
A reduction in unemployment has helped strengthen our middle class and might have helped reduce the number of uninsured. Preventable hospital stays have decreased, reducing the strain on health systems and demonstrating the value of health-care resources designed to keep us healthy for the long term.
Economic developers are paying much more attention to the overall health of a region. Employers’ expectations are higher than ever, with even more focus on health and livability. IBM, for example, believes the ultimate goal is to create communities that are more desirable places to live by reducing health and social program costs, by improving care quality, by increasing economic productivity and by making it more cost-effective to conduct business.
While we’ve moved the needle on certain health factors, economic prosperity and happiness, work remains. We have worse smoking, obesity and high school graduation rates than many peer communities, including Greenville and Charleston.
Encouraging healthy behavior, providing easy and convenient access to care, and sharing data to support holistic care delivery are key to improving community health. As we continue to get more proactive about our health, we must address the gap between top performing communities and ourselves.
Get involved, whether as a business or community leader. Identify or create opportunities to participate in conversations about our community’s health and well-being. The livability and development of Columbia relies on us all improving our health. EngenuitySC would love to hear your ideas.
Chair, Engenuity SC