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Hearth health

Orangeburg, Bamberg and Calhoun county residents are still struggling with health factors including adult obesity and child poverty, according to the 2019 County Health Rankings report.

The national report says Orangeburg County is the 37th healthiest county among South Carolina’s 46 counties. It ranked 40th last year.

Bamberg County is ranked 36th, and Calhoun County ranked 23th, the report said.

The national report was developed through a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

South Carolina's counties were ranked on key factors that affect health such as obesity, binge drinking, access to primary care providers and the number of children in poverty.

Dr. Sheri Johnson, acting director of the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps Program at the Population Health Institute, said it is time to undo policies that create barriers to opportunity among certain communities.

“All communities have the potential to be places where everyone enjoys full and equal opportunity. But the data show that’s not happening in most communities yet. Children of color face a greater likelihood of growing up in poverty, and low-income families struggle to pay rent and get enough to eat,” Johnson said.

“It is time to do the difficult work of coming together to undo policies and practices that create barriers to opportunity. The rankings can help communities ground these important conversations in data, evidence, guidance and stories about challenges and success,” she said.

While there were declines in the number of uninsured in each county from last year, the tri-county area saw is worst rankings in adult obesity, physical inactivity, children in poverty and premature death.

Orangeburg County saw a slight increase in the number of individuals reporting physical inactivity.

Groups are working to make things better.

The nonprofit Tri-County Health Network was formed in 2013 to improve the health of residents in the tri-county region.

Dr. Verlie Tisdale, vice chairperson of the TCHN, said the network and the Regional Medical Center have worked together to complete the 2019 community needs assessment.

“Both RMC and TCHN have utilized the assessment process to gain an understanding of community needs from which we formulated a plan to address priority health conditions,” Tisdale said.

The TCHN has formed three committees -- health ministry, chronic disease and healthy eating/active living -- to help it fulfill its mission.

Tisdale said the TCHN has a partnership with Eat Smart, Move More South Carolina to help create healthier communities.

“Through this partnership we’ve created a community garden at South Carolina State University. Also, Jennifer Ballew, wellness coordinator at the Orangeburg YMCA, is an active TCHN board member and has been a valuable resource, especially to the chronic disease committee.

“We are looking to grow our partnerships to include more entities throughout the tri-county area, where we can further help our citizens to eat healthy, exercise more and live long, healthy lives,” she said.

Tisdale said the TCHN’s health ministry committee will also continue to implement its “Train the Trainer: Tools for an Effective Health Ministry” workshops in area churches.

“We are in the process of identifying local churches in the tri-county area that will help us in achieving our goal to promote the development of health ministries at area churches,” she said.

The TCHN was also approved for a $450,000 Duke Endowment grant for participation in its Healthy People, Healthy Carolinas Program to engage schools in the tri-county area in a gardening project.

“The participating schools were Edisto Primary School, Lake Marion High School, Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School, Denmark-Olar Middle School and Bamberg-Ehrhardt Middle School. … Students were involved in the planting of raised beds and harvesting of vegetables. Students, faculty, administrators and staff were able to sample a variety of produce grown from the community gardens,” Tisdale said.

For more information on the TCHN and its initiatives, call 803-395-2166 or toll-free at 1-800-476-3377, ext. 2166.

To find out more about County Health Rankings, visit countyhealthrankings.org.

The 2019 community needs assessment can be assessed at trmchealth.org/services/tchn.aspx.

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Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow "Good News with Gleaton" on Twitter at @DionneTandD.

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