By Lindsay Street, Statehouse correspondent | A state nonprofit has released its first action plan for improving health for 1 million-plus rural South Carolinians living who are more likely to get sick and die sooner than their urban and suburban peers.
The S.C. Office of Rural Health, along with partners, stakeholders, friends, and neighbors from across the state, recently presented its framework to enhance rural health outcomes in South Carolina’s Rural Health Action Plan. The plan contains 15 recommendations and 50-plus corresponding action steps, intended to spur progress over the next three to five years.
According to the United Health Foundation, South Carolina is 42nd in the nation for health. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings also show the state’s rural counties experience the worst health outcomes in the state.
“Our timeline is challenging at best, but by working together and holding each other accountable, we can make significant progress in improving health and well-being in South Carolina’s rural communities,” the task force wrote in the plan’s introduction.
According to the plan’s writers, the plan hopes to leverage heightened interest among policy makers and leaders in the state. Some of the recommendations call for increased state funding in local communities.
Here are the 15 recommendations:
- Access. Ensure every community member has adequate and appropriate access, locally or via telehealth, to primary care and preventive services, emergency care, oral health services, behavioral health services, robust care coordination, appropriate diagnostic and outpatient therapy, and long-term care.
- Professionals. Support and expand innovative efforts to recruit and retain health care professionals needed to deliver health care services in communities.
- Timeliness. Advocate for every community member to have a mechanism to receive timely health care services so that they do not delay care due to an inability to pay for services
- Leadership. Create and support leadership development and training opportunities for a diverse group of natural leaders, both grassroots and grasstops, who are motivated to engage in locally led, strength-based strategies and initiatives.
- Coordination. Promote better state agency and statewide organization engagement, coordination, and communication around the planning and implementation of programs to ensure the needs of communities are being met.
- Money. Foster the development of sustainable financial models for communities, supplemented by sufficient community training specific to leveraging and aligning funding from income-generation, public support, and private sources to sustain local projects and programming.
- Workforce. Ensure a diverse and well-trained workforce is actively matched with public, private, and entrepreneurial job opportunities, while removing barriers to employment.
- Training. Increase technical assistance and training to support teams of community members and key local partners in their efforts to attract and leverage economic development opportunities.
- Funding streams. Coordinate and establish resource development opportunities and dedicated funding sources that communities can use to address their unique workforce development, growth, and quality of life challenges.
- Skill development. Provide access to vocational, training, and higher education programs that will provide every student and community member the opportunity to develop skills that match with the jobs that are available to them.
- Pre-K expansion. Expand access to affordable, full-day 3 and 4-year-old programs to all families.
- Involvement. Ensure that every school district has an active Coordinated School Health Advisory Committee as outlined in the Student Health and Fitness Act (2005).
- Housing. Repair and replace substandard housing units to improve the quality, safety, livability, accessibility, and energy efficiency of existing housing stock.
- Affordability. Increase the supply of affordable housing through new or existing local, state and federal programs including matching state low income housing tax credits.
- Infrastructure. Improve access to safe, reliable, and affordable infrastructure and services including clean drinking water, sanitary sewer, and residential broadband access.