Bringing Healthcare to Citizens
With more than 310,000 residents projected by 2021, District 45 encompasses portions of six counties (Allendale, Beaufort, Charleston, Colleton, Hampton, and Jasper) in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. Many District 45 residents live in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. Compared to the rest of the state, District 45 has higher unemployment rates, lower levels of educational attainment, and more pervasive poverty. In fact, 56% of District 45 residents live in a persistent poverty county (as identified by the US Census Bureau), compared to only 8% of all South Carolinians.
District 45 lacks significant medical resources to address medical outcomes, as it is located in a HRSA shortage area for physicians and dental devices. This provider shortage is exasperated by the fact that Barnwell County Hospital closed in 2016, with nearby Allendale County taking on many of Barnwell County’s patients. Subsequently, the area has a number of prevailing ailments influenced by a lack of medical care as well as poor application of nutrition and exercise. For example, there is a longstanding obesity epidemic, with 15-20% of children being overweight and 20.7-24.3% being obese (compared to 14.9% overweight and 16.7% obese for the State). These dynamics worsen for adults, with 33-37.8% being overweight and 32-40% being obese (compared to 35.4% overweight and 29.4% obese for the State).
There are also various forms of cardiovascular disease – with special considerations noted for African Americans. For example, age-adjusted death rates (per 100,000) in Beaufort show 205.9 African-Americans have heart disease versus 91.4 Caucasians, with African-Americans having a rate of 15.6 for hypertension versus 2.0 for Caucasians. The rate for strokes is 44.4 (African-American) in contrast to 23.6 (Caucasians). Rates are similar in Jasper County for hypertension (251.9 for African Americans versus 207.5 for Caucasians) and strokes (70.6 for African-Americans compared to 58.7 for Caucasians). Diabetes prevalence in area counties such as Allendale (19.2%), Barnwell (17.3%) Colleton (16.5%), Hampton (15.1%), and Jasper (15%) are well above State and National levels, with Allendale having the highest diabetes prevalence in the entire State. Finally, 70% of area adults also have hypertension, 67% have high cholesterol, and 40% have not taken a health self-management course.
Addressing Health Concerns
The Palmetto Palace’s forthcoming Mobile Health Unit will help provide needed health care services to District 45 residents. The Mobile Health Unit will utilize a collaborative health care team-based approach to provide screenings, vaccinations, health checkups, and other primary care services; dental care (including oral screenings, cleanings, and fluoride treatments); and health education.
Mobile Unit services will help detect previously undiagnosed conditions, strengthen care coordination and continuity, improve disease management, and reduce costly ED visits and avoidable inpatient hospitalizations. In communities where accessibility to health care has a major impact on quality of life, mobile outreach will allow health care to be delivered where it is most needed.
Dr. Youlanda Gibbs possesses the passion, talent, resilience, vision, and determination to develop The Palmetto Palace Mobile Health Unit into a successful endeavor – thus delivering preventive care to under-served populations and communities that need it most.