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Published: Thursday, 3/21/2013

Lucas County health ranks poor

Best in region are Putnam,Wood, Fulton, and Ottawa

BY KELLY McLENDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The prevalence of quick but unhealthy dining options is one of the reasons health officials give for Lucas County’s recent ranking as one of the unhealthiest counties in Ohio.

“We have a lot of fast-food restaurants,” said Dr. David Grossman, Lucas County health commissioner. While he conceded that many Lucas County residents continue to dine out frequently, he said the county improved in this year’s rankings by placing 68 out of 88. Last year, it was at 72.

A report released Wednesday from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranked all 88 counties in Ohio and 83 counties in Michigan, among other states. The report looks at health indicators including premature death, smoking, inactivity, clinical-care access, and multiple socioeconomic factors. Rankings are based on a conceptual model that includes health outcomes and health factors.

While Lucas County is ranks high, Dr. Grossman said a few categories made gains.

“Our clinical care has improved. Even our socioeconomic [factor] has improved,” he said.

He said the county’s weaknesses, including obesity and smoking, are acknowledged issues.

“We continue to work on those programs,” he said.

He said the weak points help guide the health department’s focus.

On the other end of the spectrum locally, Putnam County ranked second of 88.

While the ranking was an improvement over last year’s fourth place, Joan Kline, the Putnam County Health Department health educator, said many aspects are in the county’s favor.

“Our socioeconomic factors are also very good here. Our unemployment is often one of the lowest in the state,” Ms. Kline said. “It’s those kinds of things that also help.”

Although Putnam’s ranking continues to climb, she said problems remain.

“We are a little higher in some things — our obesity and physical inactivity is just slightly above the state percentage,” she said. The department already has an initiative aimed at improving the obesity rate.

But Putnam County residents also like to indulge in alcohol, Ms. Kline said.

“Our excessive drinking though is something higher,” she said, than the national benchmark. The report said 22 percent of Putnam County residents drink heavily compared to 18 percent in Ohio and 7 percent nationally.

The health department does not have initiatives for excessive alcohol consumption, but Ms. Kline said other community programs exist.

Ms. Kline said the data give a broad look at multiple factors, which can be helpful for seeing the bigger picture.

“Maybe our health behaviors themselves aren’t all perfect; even though our smoking is lower than the state, we do have some other areas that bump us up,” she said.

Several other northwest Ohio counties, including Fulton, Ottawa, Seneca, and Wood, improved, compared to 2012 rankings. Hancock County's rank decreased, going from eighth in 2012, to 12th this year.

In Michigan, Lenawee ranked 19th this year, followed by Monroe at 37th and Hillsdale at 38th.

Contact Kelly McLendon at: kmclendon@theblade.com or 419-724-6522.



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