CHARLESTON S.C. (WCBD) – Residents in some Charleston County communities are living decades longer than their neighbors just miles away. The massive gap in life expectancy is an issue the City of Charleston’s Health and Wellness Committee is working to tackle.

Depending on where you live, life expectancy in the City of Charleston can vary by an almost 20-year difference.

Mayor John Tecklenburg with the City of Charleston said “this map really hit me beside the face a couple of years ago” when Dr. Richardson with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control first showed the map to the committee.

Mayor Tecklenburg went on to say that this map shows a glaring disparity.

He said, “You could live on one side of the Ashely River and expect to live to 66 years which I will be this year. Verses right on the other side of the river where the expectation is 15 years longer, 81 years. Right just separated by—you can see across the (Ashley) River.”

That few miles apart, according to Dr. Kimberly Butler Willis with Roper St. Francis, is the reason there’s a 20-year difference.

Dr. Butler Willis said Healthcare attributes 20% of your health outcomes—20%. She said of the remaining 80%, “30% is attributed to healthy behaviors you engage in, so substance use, exercising, dieting, your behaviors, but that 50% is really the social and environmental factors that control our lives, and we call those the social determinants of health.”

With identical causes of death affecting those in more advantaged areas of Charleston costing the same as those in lesser advantaged areas, a bigger issue was brought to light.

Dr. Butler Willis said the issues of access, and not having equitable access to resources you need, are a product of systemic racism. This is an issue that will take time and much planning to see results.

Joey Current, a Health Program Manager with Trident United Way, said that through the committee and help from the public, change can and will happen for these communities.   

He said one of the ways they can promote a better community and longer life expectancy is from behavior change programming through community members and policy changes that can be advocated for. This is in addition to a multitude of other factors that can be tackled and tried to address the issues at hand. 

Those with the committee said there will not be a linear way to track the progress, but the best way to track it yourself is to ‘join the fight’.

To learn more about collective health and wellness initiatives or to learn more about healthcare for the uninsured: Healthy Tricounty, AccessHealth Tricounty Network