April is Minority Health Month, which provides us with an opportunity to share some of the great work we’re doing here at DHEC Public Health to reduce health disparities that affect minority populations in South Carolina.
One of our top priorities is reducing health disparities through our obesity prevention efforts. Here in South Carolina, while obesity affects all races, African-American and Hispanic populations are disproportionately affected by obesity. African-Americans in our state have a 51% higher rate of obesity and Hispanics have a 21% higher rate than whites. Similarly, research shows that food deserts – geographic areas where people struggle to access healthy food options – are often found in low-income, rural and minority neighborhoods.
Our Office of Minority Health has partnered with our nutrition and obesity teams to help reduce and eliminate these health disparities through our obesity prevention work in three target counties: Bamberg, Fairfield, and Lee. These rural counties were targeted because they have a higher percentage of minorities than the South Carolina average, as well as high rates of obesity and related conditions like diabetes. Our Public Health staff is working with community partners in these counties to deliver programs like S.C. Farm to School and It’s Your Health Take Charge, which are designed to help schools and child care centers improve nutrition education and physical activity offerings.
Reducing health disparities requires addressing not only lifestyle choices, but also creating environments that encourage people to make healthier choices. That’s why we also are providing grants to communities in counties across the state through our Healthy South Carolina Initiative to help more under-served neighborhoods access healthy foods options by improving farmers markets and establishing healthy food financing.
Thank you to all of our Public Health staff members who work throughout the year to help reduce health disparities in our state and increase access to prevention and wellness services.