Can anything be done to alleviate or end the disparities in health, education and economic opportunity that keep so much of South Carolina struggling, particularly in the 28 rural counties of the Mill Crescent and Interstate 95 Corridor? Yes.

That's the answer The Post and Courier has learned from reviewing numerous studies and interviewing dozens of economists, health officials, educators, historians, social workers, business people and private citizens across the state.

But solving those generational problems will not be easy. It will require leadership from top elected officials, the business community, civic leaders and an engaged public. The necessary changes will need commitment, time and, almost certainly, more in taxes.

South Carolina's central disparity problems bear common origins and remain intertwined. However, the state's deficiency in education presents a stumbling block that directly causes health care and economic opportunity to falter.

One out of every five people lives in poverty in half of South Carolina's 46 counties.

In some of those counties, poverty rises to one out of three.

In addition, pockets of poverty fester in most of the state's thriving metropolitan and coastal areas.

For children, the incidence of poverty runs far higher. One child out of four in South Carolina lives in poverty. And for black children, the situation is far worse.

The remaining stories in this special project look at some key problems with the state's education system, health care and economic opportunity, and possible solutions gleaned from the studies and interviews.