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SC Institute of Medicine and Public Health and SC Department on Aging Release Recommendations to Combat Social Isolation in Older Adults

CRBR Biz Wire //June 14, 2023//

SC Institute of Medicine and Public Health and SC Department on Aging Release Recommendations to Combat Social Isolation in Older Adults

CRBR Biz Wire //June 14, 2023//

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Left to right: Connie Munn, Maya Pack, Representative Chandra Dillard, MaryGail Douglas, Joseph Lee Pearson. Photo credit: Forrest Clonts

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health (IMPH), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to collectively inform policy to improve health and health care in South Carolina, in partnership with the South Carolina Department on Aging (SCDOA), has released a new taskforce report: Addressing Social Isolation in Older Adults as a Determinant of Health — which includes state-specific recommendations to reduce social isolation in older adults.

Launched in 2022, the Social Isolation in Older Adults Taskforce was convened by IMPH and SCDOA to collaboratively identify approaches to address social isolation and its effects on older adults in South Carolina. The taskforce is made up of industry experts and is chaired by MaryGail Douglas, former President of the South Carolina Association of Council on Aging Directors.

“Social connection is a major health determinant that is not typically discussed,” says Maya Pack, executive director of IMPH. “Social isolation and loneliness have been a risk to public health far before COVID-19. There is substantial evidence that shows a strong correlation between social isolation and major physical and mental health challenges and their associated costs.”

In 2020, a report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine found that approximately 24% of American adults 65 years and older living in communities are considered to be socially isolated. Social isolation is associated with an increased risk of premature mortality and there is evidence that the magnitude of the effect may be comparable to or greater than other risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity.

The state-specific recommendations were presented to members of the University of South Carolina Patient Engagement Studio, producing meaningful research from subject matter experts to help further refine the recommendations.

“This report is the culmination of subject matter experts and their partners diligently working to improve the health of older adults in our state,” says MaryGail Douglas, taskforce chair. “The findings and recommendations cited in this report will shine a light on the needs of those suffering from social isolation and help pave a way forward for a better, healthier South Carolina.”

The taskforce’s report recommendations include the following:
• Develop funding models to support increased programming to foster social connectedness.
• Leverage existing data collected through various efforts including community health needs assessments to support the development of future community-based programs, supports and referral structures that support social connection.
• Invest in digital equity by providing literacy training, ensuring access to reliable internet services and access to devices for telehealth, social networking and virtual programming.
• Conduct a statewide study of public and private transportation options available to older adults, identify funding opportunities and create more options.
“Social isolation in older adults is a top focus for our agency,” says Connie Munn, director of SCDOA. “Investing in programs that promote connection, improving data and information sharing, endorsing digital literacy and expanding transportation services can all improve the lives of older adults in South Carolina as 24% of South Carolina’s population will be 65 and older by the year 2035 per census estimates.”

This report is the result of many local agencies and organizations working diligently to improve the lives of older adults in South Carolina. As the work continues, the Office for the Study of Aging at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina will form an inclusive, ongoing coalition focused on social isolation in older adults to continue the efforts of IMPH and SCDOA’s Social Isolation in Older Adults Taskforce. This coalition will continue to build partnerships and foster intervention strategies across sectors to address social isolation in older adults.

For information on the report, IMPH, SCDOA and more, access the full report.

About IMPH
The South Carolina Institute of Medicine & Public Health (IMPH) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to collectively inform policy to improve health and health care in South Carolina. In conducting its work, IMPH takes a comprehensive approach to advancing health issues through data analysis and translation and collaborative engagement. IMPH seeks to achieve its mission by convening a diverse group of stakeholders around health issues important to South Carolina. Learn more at imph.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SC.IMPH/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SC_IMPH
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/south-carolina-institute-of-medicine-and-public-health/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHM0w99nUhYty3SdQ7Kuzaw/featured

About SCDOA
The South Carolina Department on Aging (SCDOA) enhances the quality of life for seniors in South Carolina. The SCDOA works with a network of regional and local organizations to develop and manage services that help seniors remain independent in their homes and in their communities. Learn more at https://aging.sc.gov/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SCDOA/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/agingsc
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLvehY8pXIhTiDD1CNZgMEg

 

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