Health Experts Join Sam Johnson’s Call for Chief Health Officer

Experts and leaders agree that Columbia “Can’t Afford to Wait”

Columbia, SC – Health experts and community leaders joined Columbia Mayoral candidate Sam Johnson’s call for a Chief Health Officer on Monday including retired Eau Claire Cooperative Health Centers Director Dr. Stuart Hamilton and Wright Wellness Center CEO Dr. Bambi W. Gaddist.

“This is about implementing public policy that saves people’s lives,” said Johnson. “Unfortunately, there are many different Columbias. And, for many of them, there has been a health pandemic long before COVID-19. We’ve had a heart disease pandemic, an HIV pandemic, a kidney disease pandemic, a stroke pandemic. We’re dying and this is us pleading with City Council. Lets save lives!”

According to recent numbers, four zip codes in the City of Columbia account for nearly 40% of all the COVID-19 cases in Richland County and the rates for heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, cancer and stroke are for residents of 29203 are more than double that of residents living in 29201 demonstrating the longstanding healthcare disparities across Columbia.

In addition to spearheading the city’s COVID-19 response and implementing a citywide vaccine strategy, the Chief Health Officer would also address disparities and the resulting public health crisis.

“It’s time for the City of Columbia to identify and appoint a Chief Health Officer,” said Dr. Gaddist pointing out Columbia’s high HIV/AIDS infection rate. “For the last few years we have been in the top ten of the HIV epidemic and we are still listed by the Center for Disease Control as a high-priority city. We have the opportunity now to address this with the appointment of such an individual.”

In addition to announcing his support, Councilman Ed McDowell announced that he submitted Johnson’s proposal to City Council last week and hopes that Council will take it up at its next meeting on Tuesday, May 11.