Ohio nearly last in US for health, report shows

Max Filby
The Columbus Dispatch

A ranking released Tuesday places health in Ohio near the bottom among all 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C.

Ohio ranked 47th in the country in the 2021 "health value dashboard" from the Columbus-based Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO). The dashboard's rankings are based on a combination of public health and health care spending, according to the institute.

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Ohio ranked 43rd for population health and 37th for health care spending in the latest edition of the dashboard. Ohio's low ranking was largely based on inequities, a lack of prevention due to a "sparse public health workforce" and childhood adversity and trauma, according to a press release.

Around 42% of Ohio children have experienced some sort of trauma or adversity which can lead to long-term consequences, according to the dashboard. 

"This is critical...childhood trauma can carry forward across generations so it's important that we intervene early," said Amy Bush Stevens, vice president at HPIO.

Ohio ranked 47th in the country in the 2021 "health value dashboard" from the Columbus-based Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO). The dashboard's rankings are based on a combination of public health and health care spending. In this Dispatch file photo, Madison Smith with the Ohio Army National Guard conducts a COVID test on Stan Yanczura of Marysville at the Union County Public Health Department last November.

Smoking and tobacco use continues to be an issue throughout the state and is what HPIO identifies as a "missed opportunity" when it comes to prevention. Ohio invests around 10.6% of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for state tobacco prevention and control, according to the report.

Ohio has consistently ranked near the bottom of the dashboard. Ohio’s ranking was 47th in 2014, 46th in 2017 and 46th in 2019, according to the institute.

What the ranking means is that Ohioans are living less healthy lives and spending more on health care than the residents of most other states, Bush Stevens said.

Throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Mike DeWine has called for more money to be invested in public health across Ohio.

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Despite Ohio's overall ranking, the report showed there are a few areas where the state prevailed. Those broadly included mental health care, routine checkups with doctors, falls among older adults, housing and health department accreditation.

Ohio was ranked seventh for health care access. That's an improvement from 25th in 2014.

The boost is the result of better access to primary care providers and behavioral health care in Ohio, compared with other states, according to the report. In 2020, Nationwide Children's opened a new behavioral health hospital in Columbus.

Going forward, HPIO expects some of the state's biggest challenges will be ones it is already familiar with, including substance use and abuse and excessive drinking.

During the pandemic, drug overdoses skyrocketed. In May, drug overdoses killed more Ohioans than during any month in the previous 14 years, a potential side effect of coronavirus lockdowns.

mfilby@dispatch.com

@MaxFilby