National Report Ranks Ohio Counties By Overall Health

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute have released  a comprehensive report ranking the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states by using standard measures for ranking how healthy people are and how long they live. 

The report, called County Health Rankings, is available at  www.countyhealthrankings.org, and includes a snapshot of each county in Ohio with a color‐coded map comparing each county’s overall health.

Researchers used five measures to assess the level of overall health or “health outcomes” for Ohio by county: the rate of people dying before age 75, the percent of people who report being in fair or poor health, the numbers of days people report being in poor physical and poor mental health and the rate of low‐birth weight infants.

The Rankings also look at factors that affect people’s health within four categories: health behavior, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment. These factors include rates of adult smoking, adult obesity, excessive drinking among adults, and teenage births; the number of uninsured adults, availability of primary care providers, and preventable hospital stays; rates of high school graduation, adults who have attended college, children in poverty; community safety; and access to healthy foods and air pollution levels.

Over the past year, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) has worked to help counties across the state  build on strengths and address weaknesses included in Rankings, which was first published last year. ODH is also helping communities implement innovative strategies to place an additional emphasis on prevention and primary care.

An ODH program, called Creating Healthy Communities (CHC), provides funding to 16 local counties to address the risk factors of poor nutrition, tobacco use, sedentary lifestyle and chronic disease in schools, worksites, health care and community settings. The Program, which was awarded the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Preventive Health and Health Services 2010 Block Grant Champion Award, uses population‐ and evidence‐based approaches to expand and enhance a community’s ability to develop policies, systems and environmental changes that can prevent chronic disease.

“In Ohio, we must do a better job of addressing underlying health causes and until we do we will continue to see rapidly rising health care costs,” said State Director of Health Theodore Wymyslo. “That is why promoting healthy lifestyles and environmental changes that make it easier for residents to live healthier lives are the basis for many programs at the Ohio Department of Health.”

In addition, other Ohio health organizations are working to implement proven practices. In the coming months, the Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO) will be using the Rankings to assist in identifying a county for the implementation of an evidence‐based public health practice.

To learn more about how three Ohio Counties (Meigs County, Henry County and Wayne County) have used the rankings to improve their health of their community, please review the pages following the press release.

For more information on the CHC program visit: http://www.healthyohioprogram.org/healthylife/createcomm/chc1.aspx.

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