Monthly Archives: April 2016

South Carolina working to improve minority health

 By Jade N. Durham, MPH
CLAS / Cultural Competence Consultant

SC DHEC – Office of Minority Health

Lots of variables go into determining the quality of health a person enjoys —where they live, work and play, their income, their education, their place of birth. And let’s not forget the choices they make about what they eat and whether they exercise or see a doctor regularly.

All those things are linked to health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities in our state and across America. It is critical that we address inequities in health and health care, which is why the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has placed special emphasis on that area. It’s also why each April is designated as National Minority Health Month.

DHEC’s Office of Minority Health, established in June 1990, is charged with improving the health of racial and ethnic minority populations in South Carolina in an effort to achieve health equity. The office provides technical assistance and consultation to internal and external partners across the state to assist in developing policies and programs aimed at eliminating health disparities.

South Carolina is making progress

While South Carolina still has work to do, it has made some significant strides in improving minority health in a number of areas. Just consider some of the improvements made in the health of African-Americans, the state’s largest minority population. From 1999 to 2014:

  • Cancer death rates among African-American men fell 34 percent.
  • Breast cancer death rates among African-American women fell nearly 21 percent.
  • HIV death rates among African-Americans fell 54 percent.
  • Reported HIV cases among African-American women fell nearly 63 percent.
  • Heart disease death rates for African-American men decreased 32 percent and heart disease death rates among African-American women dropped 37 percent.
  • The prevalence of diabetes in African-American women decreased 47 percent.
  • Infant mortality trends are decreasing and the gap between African-Americans and whites has narrowed.

Still more work to be done

Despite our state’s noteworthy progress in narrowing health disparity gaps for several health concerns, many challenges remain. While stroke, heart disease and diabetes have been declining statewide and nationally, death and illness among African-Americans continue to be cause for concern.

  • The gap in heart disease mortality between African-Americans and whites has been persistent over time. Heart disease death rates were higher among African-American males followed by white males, then African-American females and lastly white females.
  • Approximately one in six African-American adults has diabetes, compared to one in nine white adults.
  • In 2014, the age-adjusted HIV death rate for African-American males is almost 9 times higher than the rate for white males.
  • There are more African Americans living with HIV than whites in South Carolina.

Gaps in the health status and well-being of various communities affect all Americans, and improving the health of all communities has a number of benefits:

  • It is a matter of life and death for those who suffer with chronic and other diseases.
  • It reduces health care costs, which translates into a stronger economy and a more productive, competitive America.
  • It builds a stronger foundation for our nation’s increasingly diverse populations to prosper for generations to come.

DHEC, the Office of Minority Health and various other public and private partners continue to collaborate to improve these outcomes.

This month, the Office of Minority Health has been shining a light on National Minority Health Month. On April 1, it collaborated with the University of South Carolina Institute for Partnerships to Eliminate Health Disparities to sponsor the 2016 Clyburn Health Disparities Lecture; Dr. Camara P. Jones was the keynote speaker. On April 27, the Office, in collaboration with the Office of Staff Training and Development, held a professional development workshop for DHEC staff focusing on the topics of health equity, health disparities and diversity.

For more information on National Minority Health Month and how you can get involved, visit

Manning Named Top S.C. Young Dietitian

As a S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control registered dietitian, Shorus Manning understands the importance of eating well.
“I love what I do, and I take the responsibility of imparting relatable nutrition knowledge very seriously,” she said.
That’s precisely why the South Carolina Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Scholarships and Awards Committee named Shorus the state’s 2016 Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year.
Shorus was honored for demonstrating leadership in the organization, her efforts to promote health and nutrition, along with her community and volunteer activities and support of her peers. She serves in DHEC’s Professional and Community Nutrition Services Office as a SNAP-education dietitian. Although she has been with DHEC for 10 years altogether, starting as a work-study student, Shorus has been a dietitian for the past four years.
“I think food and nutrition is constantly overlooked as being a first step to changing your health,” according to Shorus. “Through my experience, I’ve noticed it’s usually the last step that people consider. There is also a big misconception that you have to make drastic changes to your diet to be healthy. This is not true. During my nutrition education classes and cooking demonstrations I teach about small changes.”
Those teachings are getting the native South Carolinian noticed. She hopes this award will shine light on DHEC’s SNAP-Ed program.
“The ladies in the Office of Professional and Community Nutrition Services work so hard around the clock to improve the health of South Carolinians, and I am honored to participate in this effort.”

South Carolina Zika Forum: Developing a Collaborative Response

By Warren Bolton

Be prepared. Educate. Collaborate. Get the community involved. Those were among the key messages that set the tone of the South Carolina Zika Forum on April 19 — which drew more than 200 participants from across the state.

The gathering of mostly city, county and state decision makers and mosquito control personnel marked the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s latest effort to ensure South Carolina is prepared should Zika make an appearance in our state. So far, there have been no confirmed cases of Zika in South Carolina, but there is a possibility that there one day will be.

The event brought stakeholders together to discuss their respective roles and responsibilities in preventing, detecting and responding to Zika, to share helpful information about maintaining or starting a local mosquito program and to explore collaborative opportunities.

 Positioning communities to respond

The forum began with remarks from Swati Patel, Gov. Nikki Haley’s chief of staff, S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control Director Catherine Heigel and S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director Duane Parrish.

Patel said she has seen her share of public emergencies while working in the governor’s office over the past 10 years, including forest fires, ice storms, the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the 2015 floods. Now Zika. “Each of the emergencies and their impacts were very different,” she said. “The common theme I learned from all of these experiences is that there is never too much preparation and never too much responsiveness.”

Director Heigel said the convergence of what is expected to be a heavy mosquito season and concern over Zika prompted the forum to discuss prevention, detection and response to the virus. “We’re here to figure out how we can best position all of our communities across the state to respond,” she said.

It’s important to develop a common understanding of the science and medical background of Zika, how it is transmitted and how to respond in terms of mosquito control, the director said.

Sharing knowledge for prevention

The forum included presentations from State Epidemiologist Linda Bell, State Public Health Entomologist Chris Evans and representatives from local mosquito programs in Beaufort County and the city of Hartsville.

Dr. Bell discussed the history of the Zika virus and its occurrence in humans, focusing on transmission, treatment and complications, among other things. Dr. Evans focused on the two types of mosquitoes that can potentially carry the virus, surveillance, eliminating breeding sites and mosquito control. He also discussed the process DHEC will use to decide when to notify local mosquito control programs of a positive Zika case.

The presentations on the two different size mosquito programs illustrated the range that can be found in our state. Beaufort County has a robust program that is active in outreach and reducing mosquito breading grounds but also relies heavily on spraying for adult mosquitoes. The county has developed a Zika response plan that focuses on surveillance, community outreach, abatement strategies and post-outbreak assessment. Hartsville, in its third year of building a program, operates on a smaller scale but also educates the public, uses chemical agents to kill mosquito larvae and encourages citizens to help in eliminating breeding sites. Spraying is a last resort.

The presentations were followed by a panel Q&A that explored various issues surrounding controlling Zika and mosquitoes.


Collaboration key to preparation

At the conclusion of the forum, Director Heigel said it will take a coordinated effort from all involved — federal, state and local officials as well as citizens — to properly respond to Zika. “We have to coordinate. We have to know what resources are available to us and understand how we need to be working together,” she said.

She encouraged attendees to begin preparing: Those who don’t have mosquito programs should start them. If they don’t have sufficient resources, they should develop memorandums of understanding or mutual aid agreements with neighbors who have programs. “Today is about starting those conversations so that we can collaboratively, as a state, be prepared,” she said, adding DHEC will be available to help answer questions along the way.

Many thanks to those partners who joined DHEC in sponsoring the event: Clemson Department of Pesticide Regulation, Municipal Association of SC, SC Association of Counties, SC Department of Commerce, SC Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, SC Disaster Recovery Coordination Office, SC Emergency Management Division, SC Mosquito Control Association and University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public health.

More information

Those attending the forum received a toolkit that included information on how to start a mosquito control program, the various roles partners play, sample public outreach materials and more. Handouts and education materials from the event are available at

Immunizations Prevent, Reduce the Spread of Infectious Diseases

By Teresa Foo, MD, MPH

Immunizations play a valuable role in protecting the health of our children, families, and communities.  They not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.

Because of the success of vaccines in preventing disease, parents might not have heard of some of today’s vaccines or the serious diseases they prevent. These diseases can be especially serious for infants and young children.

Each year we pause to observe National Infant Immunization Week, which this year runs from April 16-23.  It is a time to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs in promoting healthy communities throughout the United States.  It is also a time to raise awareness about the importance of ensuring all children are fully protected from vaccine-preventable diseases through immunization.

There is no denying that vaccines have drastically reduced infant death and disability caused by preventable diseases. Just consider some of the milestones shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Through immunization, we can now protect infants and children from 14 vaccine-preventable diseases before age 2.
  • In the 1950s, nearly every child developed measles and, unfortunately, some even died from this serious disease. Many physicians today have never seen a case of the measles.
  • Among children born during 1994-2013, vaccination will prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes. It also saves about $13.5 billion in direct costs.
  • The National Immunization Survey has consistently shown that childhood immunization rates for vaccines routinely recommended for children remain at or near record levels.

It’s easy to think of these as diseases of the past. But the truth is they still exist. Children in the United States can—and do—still get some of these diseases.

One example of the seriousness of vaccine preventable diseases is an increase in measles cases that were reported in 2014. The United States experienced a record number of measles cases, with 667 cases from 27 states reported to CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. This was the greatest number of cases in the United States since measles was considered eliminated in 2000.

That is why it is important to follow the recommended immunization schedule to protect infants and children early in life, before they are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases.

Vaccine-preventable diseases still circulate in the United States and around the world, so continued vaccination is necessary to protect everyone from potential outbreaks. For example, measles is still common in many parts of the world, including some countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa, and travelers with measles continue to bring the disease into the United States. It’s easy for measles to spread when it reaches communities in the United States — or anywhere else — where groups of people are unvaccinated.

Remember, giving babies the recommended immunizations by age 2 is the best way to protect them from 14 serious childhood diseases, like whooping cough and measles.  Talk to your health care provider about what vaccines are recommended for your child, and make sure you keep all immunization and well-child appointments.  For more information about how to protect your child with immunizations, go to:

7 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

By Bryony Wardell

April 22 is a special opportunity for everyone to take a moment to care for the planet that takes care of all of us. Even if you don’t have anything planned yet, here are a few ways you can celebrate Earth Day 2016 on Friday, or any day of the year.

Get Outside!
trail What better way to remind yourself how important the environment is? Take a moment to breathe the air, feel the sun, or enjoy the shade of a tree or the grass under your feet. Go for a hike, have a meeting or class outdoors, or just take a few extra moments on your walk to your mailbox or car to take in your surroundings.

Put Litter in Its Placepick up litter cropLitter not only looks trashy, but it also pollutes the environment. Make sure to put trash in a trash can or recycle bin. If you see litter on the ground, pick it up. You can even organize a community litter cleanup event with organizations like Palmetto Pride.

Adopt a Beach
The Adopt-A-Beach program is part of DHEC’s Marine Debris Initiative and is a great way for businesses, civic clubs, school groups and neighborhood associations to make a significant contribution to the preservation of our wonderful coastal environment. Everyone who participates in a beach cleanup becomes a powerful advocate for the beach against litter.

Recycle More
recycle more sc cro;.jpg
The recycling industry has a $13 billion impact on South Carolina’s economy and it reduces the need to build landfills and incinerators – which leaves more land to enjoy and less pollution produced. Recycling supports the economy, keeps waste out of landfills – and it’s easy. From cans to car tires – there is so much you can recycle. Learn more about what and where to recycle in your community.

Prevent Food Waste

Did you know that food waste is one of the largest contributors of waste to landfills? You can help prevent sending wasted food to the dump by buying only what you need, donating surplus food to food banks and composting your food scraps into nutritious fertilizer for your garden. Learn more!

Spare the Air – Prevent Air Pollution
STA Blog BannerHere are just a few of the ways you can help improve air quality.

  • Drive less: Cars are a leading source of air pollution. Try driving less by carpooling, shopping online, telecommuting or walking / biking when you can instead of driving.
  • Drive smart: Don’t idle your vehicle while you wait, keep your tires and car tuned up to make sure it runs efficiently, and accelerate slowly and use cruise control to reduce emissions.
  • Save energy: Turn off lights, TVs, computers, monitors and other personal electronics and appliances when you leave a room.
  • Learn more

Only Rain Down The Storm Drain

storm drain crop

Citizens and communities can help keep S.C.’s rivers, streams, lakes and oceans clean and healthy by  preventing stormwater pollution. Storm drains lead directly to fresh water bodies where people swim and play, so it’s important to reduce potential pollution or litter that goes into the storm drains. Here’s how you can help:

  • Lawn care: Use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly and choose organic mulch or safer pest control methods whenever possible.
  • Pet waste: Pet waste left on the ground can transport harmful bacteria into recreational waters after it rains. Take baggies with you and pick up after your pet and put pet waste in the trash can. Never put dog feces (bagged or not) or cat litter down a storm drain.
  • Car care: Use a commercial car wash that treats or recycles its wastewater, or wash your car on your yard so the water infiltrates into the ground.
  • Learn more

Remember, every little bit counts and we only have one earth to live on. So do what you can to show Earth some love this Earth Day, and every day.