Your Zip Code can determine how long you will live. That finding was a major factor in a study for a tri-county health improvement plan released Tuesday.
The health improvement plan by Healthy Tri-County was presented at the second annual Tri-County Health Symposium and affects Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley county community members.
"We now have a crystal clear road map," said Kellye McKenzie, the director of health for Trident United Way.
Healthy Tri-County was initially kickstarted back in 2016 when Trident United Way, Roper St. Francis and the Medical University of South Carolina conducted the 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment.
It was during that assessment that they recognized the need for a regional initiative like Healthy Tri-County to promote better health outcomes in Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley counties.
From that assessment they prioritized five health topics: access to care; behavioral health; clinical preventative services, maternal, infant and child health; and obesity, nutrition and physical activity.
This led to the beginnings of the health improvement plan released this year.
"There's tremendous positive energy around this," said Mark Dickson, vice president of mission for Roper St. Francis.
Officially titled "Our Health, Our Future: Tri-County Health Improvement Plan," the TCHIP involved over 80 volunteers representing at least 60 organizations in South Carolina. Anton Gunn, the executive director of community health innovation for MUSC, said there is a lot of excitement in seeing so many different organizations come to the table to be involved.
"I've heard people who live in this community for 20 years say that they've never had this many different organizations come together on something that's focused on the entire tri-county region," Gunn said.
Their goal with the plan is to resolve issues of all of the five chief health concerns — essentially how things like access to resources, education and income impact overall health outcomes.
"The biggest factor that determines your life expectancy is your ZIP code," Gunn said.
Included with the plan is also a community action guide for the three counties that contains recommendations for communities to improve the health of their residents. Some of the recommendations include having conversations with friends and family about health insurance and organizing community baby showers to help expectant mothers.
"Every citizen in the local area, every person can do something in this regard," Dickson said.
Now that the plan is finished, the initiative's goal is to put the plan into action and continue to educate community members about their health and bring awareness about "TCHIP."
"We are headed out on the TCHIP road show," McKenzie said.