Ohioans hopefully will put down the eggnog and avoid doing circles around the Christmas cookies now that the latest report of America’s Health Rankings have dropped a sugar-coated bomb on us.
The report places Ohio toward the bottom of the list — ranking 38 out of the 50 states — when measuring things such as obesity, diabetes, smoking, infant mortality and premature deaths.
What’s even more frustrating is that Ohio ranked 27th when the first report was issued 30 years ago by the private United Health Foundation. Dropping 11 spots, well, it’s not something to put in the state’s marketing tool box.
Of course, one could rightfully argue the 30-year decrease doesn’t necessarily mean Ohio’s health picture has become worse. However, what cannot be argued is that Ohio hasn’t experienced health improvements as quickly as other states. This “good and bad” is illustrated in the number of people who still smoke. In the past two years, smoking decreased 9% in Ohio. That’s good. What’s bad is 1 in 5 adults still fill their lungs with nicotine. Now that vaping is becoming more popular, things could get a lot worse before they get better.
Health rankings such as those done by the United Health Foundation help frame the debate on public health issues. They identify the key health challenges at both the state and national levels.
Among other findings in Ohio:
• Since 2012, diabetes in Ohio has increased 22% and now includes 12% of all adults.
• In the past three years, drug deaths increased 77% to 37.3 deaths per 100,000 population.
• In the past 10 years, air pollution decreased 37% from 13.4 to 8.5 micrograms of fine particles per cubic meter.
• In the past two years, mental health providers increased 34% from 182.5 to 245.1 per 100,000 population.
• In the past three years, frequent mental distress increased 24% from 12.0% to 14.9% of adults.
Nationally, much of the same holds true.
Many health issues that were of concern in 1990 remain so today, and additional issues have arisen that require action now. In the past year, improvements have been made in lowering the rate of children in poverty (decreasing 2%), and increasing the supply of mental health providers (up 5%). In the past two years, infant mortality has declined, resulting in 1,200 fewer deaths (decreasing 2%).
Yet obesity prevalence among Americans is now at 31% — up 11% since 2012. Diabetes is now at 11% of the U.S. population, up 4% in the past year.
Other national findings:
• The rate of drug deaths increased 37% from 14 to 19.2 deaths per 100,000 – equating to more than 53,000 additional deaths over a three-year period.
• The suicide rate increased 4% nationally in the past year, and is up in a total of 30 states.
So, what states are on the good list this holiday season and which ones are getting a lump of coal?
Vermont topped the list of healthiest states in 2019, followed by Massachusetts (No. 2), Hawaii (No. 3), Connecticut (No. 4) and Utah (No. 5). Vermont improved three ranks in 2019 to take the top spot.
Mississippi ranks No. 50 this year, while Louisiana (No. 49), Arkansas (No. 48), Alabama (No. 47) and Oklahoma (No. 46) follow with opportunities for improvement.
New York has made the most progress since the Annual Report was first released in 1990, improving 29 ranks from No. 40 to No. 11.
The end game: Despite many successes, Ohio and the rest of the country still has work to do to ensure every person, regardless of where they live, has an equal opportunity to live a long and healthy life.