Category Archives: Community Health

Cancer on the Decline in South Carolina

A recent report by the South Carolina Cancer Alliance (SCCA) and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC) announced that cancer mortality rates in South Carolina have declined by 17.6% in the past 20 years.  According to the report, the most prevalent cancers in our state are: lung cancer, melanoma (skin cancer), breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer.

Cancer specialists contribute the decline in cancer mortality rates to primary prevention strategies such as decreasing the prevalence of smoking, early detection and improved cancer treatments.

Although specific risk factors are relative to specific types of cancers, general risk factors include:

  • tobacco usage,
  • being overweight, and
  • an unbalanced diet.

It is important to understand that although cancer mortality rates have declined, health disparities still exist among minority populations and in rural communities. More than 26,000 people are diagnosed with an invasive cancer and nearly 10,000 people die from cancer each year.

“We are moving in the right direction for a state our size, but we are still behind the rest of the country,” said Dr. Gerald Wilson, chair of the South Carolina Cancer Alliance. “The best course of action people can take is to speak with their doctors about cancer screenings and lifestyle changes.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • Lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in South Carolina and ranks 1st for cancer deaths.
  • The rate of all cancers in women increased by 5.5%.
  • The death rate for black women with breast cancer is 43.5% higher than for white women.
  • Skin cancer increases of 21.2% among white men and 24.6% among white women mirror national trends.
  • The death rate for black men with prostate cancer is three times higher than white men.

For more information or to view the full report, visit:  https://www.sccancer.org/media/1348/20-year-cancer-report_spread-w-bleed.pdf.

DHEC In the News: Hepatitis A Vaccinations, Back-to-School Vaccinations, DHEC Receives Grant for Congenital Heart Defects Studies

Here’s a look at health and environmental news around South Carolina.

 

DHEC wants high-risk groups to get hepatitis A vaccine

CAMDEN, S.C. (Chronicle-Independent.com) The hepatitis A outbreak in South Carolina is driven by infections among people in high-risk groups, and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is asking organizations and individuals who serve those populations to help prevent a more serious outbreak that could affect the general public.

 

DHEC encourages parents to get students vaccinated now in preparation for school

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WYFF.com) The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control issued a reminder for parents Monday to vaccinate their children before the school year begins, saying it’s one of the most important items on a child’s back-to-school list.

 

DHEC and partners awarded $2 million national grant for congenital heart defects studies

CHARLESTON, S.C. (MoultrieNews.com) The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control along with several partners are one of six groups in the nation to be awarded a $2 million grant for studying how congenital heart defects impact patients throughout their lives and identifying ways to support impacted families.

South Carolina Health at a Glance: Maternal and Infant Health

Our next installment of the 2018 Live Healthy State Health Assessment summaries covers maternal and infant health.  Because the document is 346 pages, we will summarize each section.  Check out our previous posts:  overview of the report, South Carolina demographics, leading causes of death and hospitalization, cross-cutting, and access to healthcare.

Infant Mortality

The five leading causes of infant death in South Carolina were:

  • Birth defects (85%)
  • Preterm birth and low birthweight (14.2%)
  • Unintentional injuries (9.7%)
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) (6.7%)
  • Maternal complication of pregnancy (5.0%).

Targeted education and interventions focused on infant death prevention and contributing factors helps to reach audiences in greatest need.  Although the infant mortality rate decreased from 8.5 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2007 to 7.0 deaths in 2016, this rate is higher than the national infant mortality rate and the Healthy People 2020 targeted goal.

Infant Mortality_SC Health Assessment

Birth Defects

Babies affected by birth defects are at an increased risk for long-term physical, cognitive, and social challenges.  Families affected by birth defects often deal with complex medical conditions that require surgery and early intervention services within the first three years of life.  Approximately 8,074 birth defects were reported in South Carolina from 2009-2015.  Birth defect types include:  cardiovascular, central nervous system, chromosomal, orofacial, musculoskeletal, renal, genital, gastrointestinal, limb defects, and eye and ear defects.

Strategies to prevent birth defects include maintaining a healthy diet and consuming at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, regularly visiting a healthcare provider for chronic disease management and infection prevention, and avoiding exposure to drugs and alcohol.

Preterm Birth

Preterm birth is the live birth of a baby before 37 weeks of pregnancy.  The earlier a baby is born, the greater the chances of having health problems in the short-term and long-term for the newborn.  These health problems can include respiratory distress, bleeding of the brain, anemia, or other health issues.

In 2016, preterm birth in South Carolina was higher than the United States.  The percent of preterm birth increased as the age of the mother increased.  Approximately 14.7% of non-Hispanic Black women experienced preterm births.

Preterm birth_SC Health assessment

Low Birthweight

Low birthweight is the birth of a baby weighing less than five pounds, eight ounces.  Although some low birthweight babies are healthy, others may require special care at birth due to respiratory distress, intestinal complications, bleeding of the brain, or other health problems.  Babies born at a low birthweight also have increased risk for developing chronic health conditions later in life.

Low Birthweight_SC Health Assessment

Teen Birth

The birth rate for teenagers aged 15 to 19 has continuously declined since 1991, reaching historic lows across the United States.  Success in the decline may be attributed to increased access to long-acting reversible contraception, delayed onset of sexual activity, and effective abstinence education.  Although the teen birth rate has declined significantly from 2007 to 2016, South Carolina’s teen birth rate is higher than national rate.

Teen birth_SC Health assessment

For more information about South Carolina maternal health statistics on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), intended pregnancy, prenatal care, breastfeeding, and pregnancy-related death, read the full Maternal and Infant Health chapter of the 2018 State Health Assessment.

 

From Other Blogs: National Watermelon Month, Pet Preparedness During Hurricane Season, Cancer Statistics

A collection of health and environmental posts from other governmental blogs

The Science Behind a Favorite Summertime Treat

Many people consider watermelon a delicious summer treat — whether in granitas, salads or simply freshly sliced. It’s not surprising that July is National Watermelon Month.  Watermelons, which originated in Africa, have been grown in the North America since the 1600s and are an important U.S. crop. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the United States produced 4,494,000 pounds of watermelon in 2016. – From The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Blog

 

Pet Preparedness:  10 Items You’ll Need for Your Pet’s Hurricane Emergency Kit

Amid rushed evacuations, strong winds, and approaching floodwaters of a disaster, chaos often ensues, forcing families to make impossible decisions about the animals that are part of their families.  It’s never easy to leave a pet behind but often, there is no choice. These situations may not always be preventable but having a plan in place can give your pets their best chance.  Keep that plan, and the tools needed to implement it, within an emergency kit tailored specifically to your pet. – From the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s Blog

 

Four Reasons Why You Should Use the US Cancer Statistics Tools

US Cancer Statistics, the official federal cancer statistics covering the entire US population, has been updated with new data and new ways to analyze the data by demographics and risk factors. Learn more about how you can explore and use the latest US cancer data. – From The Topic is Cancer, A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Blog

South Carolina Health at a Glance: Access to Healthcare

Our next installment of the 2018 Live Healthy State Health Assessment summaries covers access to healthcare.  Because the document is 346 pages, we will summarize each section.  Check out our previous posts:  overview of the report, South Carolina demographics, leading causes of death and hospitalization, and cross-cutting.  Data is analyzed from 2010-2016.

Access to health care refers to the ability of residents in a community to find a consistent medical provider for their primary and specialty care needs and ability to receive that care without encountering significant barriers.  Special populations who may face unique barriers include those who are experiencing homelessness or mental illness, lacking adequate health insurance, or non-English speakers such as some immigrants and refugees.

Primary Care Physicians

Primary care physicians specialize in family medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, and pediatrics.  They provide preventative care, identify and treat common conditions, and make referrals to specialists as needed.  Typically people with familiar primary care physicians have better chronic disease management, lower overall health care costs, and a higher level of satisfaction with their care.

According to America’s Health Rankings, in 2017, South Carolina ranked 36th in the nation for the number of primary care physicians per 10,000 residents.  The counties with the highest rates of primary care physicians in 2015 were Charleston, Greenwood, and Greenville.

Physician Assistants

Physician assistants are certified medical professionals who can give medical and surgical care in teams with physicians.  They can practice under the direction of a physician to diagnose, treat, and prescribe medicine.  The ratio of physician assistants increased from 1.5 physician assistants per 10,000 residents in 2009 to 2.5 physician assistants per 10,000 residents in 2015.

Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners have clinical knowledge and skills to provide direct patient care.  They have the authority to prescribe medications and can also be utilized in rural communities, which often lack primary care providers.  South Carolina saw a 50% increase in the ratio of nurse practitioners from 2009 to 2015.

Health Insurance Coverage Among Adults

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimated 550,000 South Carolinians were without health insurance in 2016.  Although the number of insured adults in South Carolina increased from 2008 to 2015, the rate was below the United States, as well as the Healthy People 2020 target.  In 2015, 85.7% of South Carolina women were insured compared to 81.6% of men.

Health Care Insurance_Health Assessment

Delayed Medical Care

Worse health outcomes and higher medical expenditures are often results of delayed medical care.  Late diagnosis and advanced disease may require more extensive services.  Being insured and having access to affordable medical care could increase utilization of preventive health care services.

Delayed medical care_Health assessment

In South Carolina in 2016, 21.2% of Hispanic/Latinos delayed healthcare due to cost, compared to 18.8% of non-Hispanic Blacks and 13.7% of non-Hispanic Whites.  More women delayed medical care due to cost than men.

For more information about avoidable hospitalizations and emergency department visits, the leading causes of hospitalizations among children, and oral health, read the full chapter about Access to Health Care.