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How does South Carolina stack up against the healthiest states for …

South Carolina ranked 33rd in the nation for its overall senior health, according to a recently released report from United Health Foundation.

The state’s 2017 ranking is a marginal improvement from the 2016 report, which put South Carolina at 34.

The state’s biggest strengths were a low percentage of low-care nursing home residents, low prevalence of excessive drinking and high percentage of hospice care use. In the past two years, seniors receiving recommended health screenings increased 20 percent, according to the 2017 America’s Health Rankings Seniors Report.

The state’s biggest challenges included a high premature death rate, high hip fracture hospitalization rate and high prevalence of food insecurity.

Since 2013, food security increased by 13 percent in South Carolina, ranking the state fifth-lowest in the nation for food security of individuals age 60 and older. During the same time, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program reach decreased 20 percent for that age bracket.

“Many seniors are on fixed income, so they purchase what they can, but as cost of living goes up, that cuts back on their food,” said Patricia Jenkins, executive director of Beaufort County Council on Aging, which provides meals and services to county residents older than 60 years of age.

In addition to food insecurity, Jenkins said that a lack of transportation is a major issue for seniors in the area.

“If you don’t have Medicaid, you can’t get to doctors appointment or pay for someone to take you to the grocery store,” Jenkins said. “And then you’re just lost really.”

Nationally, clinical care measures — hospital readmissions, preventable hospitalizations, hospital deaths and hospice care use — have improved since the first Senior Report was published in 2013.

But as in South Carolina, obesity, nutrition and access to healthy food remain challenges for seniors across the country.

“Rising rates of obesity and food insecurity, especially when paired with the potential shortfalls in health care savings of many current and future seniors, underscore the need for action to help seniors live healthier lives,” Rhonda Randall, senior adviser to United Health Foundation, said in a news release.

The healthiest states for seniors are spread throughout the U.S., while the least-healthy states are clustered in the southern region, the report shows.

Minnesota ranked as the healthiest state for seniors this year, while Mississippi, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Louisiana made up the bottom four.

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