Apparently Poor Health is Good for the S.C. Economy by Fletcher Williams III

If you've kept up with long-time City Paper columnist Will Moredock, news of South Carolina's poor health ranking should come as no surprise to you. He's been voicing his discontent since the early 2000's. And if you'd like a good history of affairs concerning the state's quality of life indexes, refer to his recently published book, Living in Fear: Race, Politics & The Republican Party

Within this book, is a City Paper essay published September 13th 2006, Living in the Third Word, Part 1: Welcome to South Carolina, Where Poverty is Policy. As he does in most of the essays featured in the book, Moredock scoffs at the rhetoric of state representatives and criticizes their futile policies and plans. He states, "And yet, year after year, despite all this "progress," the dismal record shows that South Carolina remains near the bottom in personal income, standard of living, educational attainment, SAT scores, life expectancy, environmental quality...and the list goes on. Year after year, our unemployment rate remains one of the highest in the nation. Our leaders turn our state into one vast industrial park and proclaim, "Jobs, jobs, jobs for all," but South Carolina remains a Third World country and a national laughing stock. Have you ever wondered why?"

Well, it's 2015 and the state is still wondering why. Which is why I was captured by a recent Post & Courier headline that reads, "South Carolina maintains low ranking on healthiest states list". Full Article - December 10th 2015

Lauren Sausser, of the Post & Courier states, "South Carolina has landed on the wrong end of another list this year." According to a 2015 list released by the United Health Foundation, South Carolina ranks 42nd. She also states, "The full report shows South Carolina particularly struggles with obesity, a lot of smokers and a high violent crime rate." Sausser cites Dr. Rick Foster, a S.C. Hospital Association Vice President, as saying, "We can no longer tolerate these kinds of lower rankings. It’s time for us to take action together. If we can get into the 30s, that’s a strong indicator that we’re doing something to make a difference.”

I wonder what actions are needed to crawl into the 30's. Many recent reports don't show an improvement in South Carolina's health.

According to a 2014 report by The State of Obesity Organization, South Carolina's obesity rate is at 32.1% and continues to climb year-to-year. According to South Carolina Tobacco Free Collaborative, tobacco use remains the number one cause of preventable death and disease in both South Carolina and the nation as a whole. Tobacco use costs South Carolina at least $4.25 billion each year. Annual healthcare costs directly caused by smoking are $1.9 billion and the portion covered by the state Medicaid program is $476 million. The tobacco industry spends an estimated $194 million annually to promote tobacco. But the debate continues, knowing that increasing tobacco taxes could lead to lower use of tobacco. SC cigarette tax ranked the 44th lowest in the U.S., taxed at only 5 percent of the manufactures price. (Proposals to increase SC tobacco tax could lower usage - Kelly Matter - Full Article)

But, the most glaring of these indexes is gun violence. As of December 8th 2015, the killing of 27­year-­old John Quintez Daniels marked the 14th incident reported this year in North Charleston. It marks the 68th homicide in the Tri-County area. The Post & Courier also reported a shooting in Greenville County Thursday morning marking the 47th officer-involved shooting this year in South Carolina, a new record. South Carolina made national headlines earlier this year when former North Charleston Police officer, Michael Slager, was charged with murder for the shooting death of Walter Scott. 

Just four days after the December 10th article in the Post & Courier, Jeffrey Collins writes, "Economists: South Carolina Finally Back from Great Recession". Within this article, it is revealed that South Carolina Economist Douglass Woodward sees the profit in our poor public health. Jeffrey Collins cites Woodward as saying, "Where can South Carolina keep growing? Health care is an obvious choice in a state where 16 percent of its residents are age 65 or over, compared to 12 percent just 15 years ago. Major health care providers such as the Cleveland Clinic are looking at South Carolina, because of the number of people retiring here, Woodward said. "We've got a pretty strong health care sector. If we could make that transition now to become a destination," Woodward said. "It's odd, but the sicker people get, the better the economy does." Full Article

So South Carolina, let's continue to do what we do best. Light your cigarettes, make that value meal an extra large, and strive to break our homicide record. Our economy needs it.  

And according to Woodward, South Carolina also needs to continue to emphasize tourism to keep increasing its population by taking people from other states.