Lucas County continues to languish in the bottom quarter of Ohio counties in overall rankings of public health, mostly because of poverty and other socioeconomic factors.
For the second consecutive year, Lucas County ranked 68th among the state’s 88 counties, the same as in 2013, according to a new report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
For our region to experience significant health gains, a communitywide effort to improve social conditions is imperative. Public health is about more than health care — it’s also about education, jobs, and social support.
The county rankings examine a broad range of factors that affect community health, including air pollution levels, income, obesity, excessive drinking, teen births rates, drinking-water quality, housing, and commuting distances.
A deeper look at the statistics shows that Lucas County ranked 85th — just fourth from the bottom — in social and economic factors such as unemployment, children in single-parent households, violent crime, unemployment, and children living in poverty.
Compared to the rest of Ohio and the nation, Lucas County has fallen farther behind in its rates of unemployment and child poverty. The numbers reinforce findings that significant gaps in wellness are driven by economics, and that such nonhealth factors largely contribute to how long and how well we live.
These abysmal rankings should spark local conversations about not only how to provide better access to health care, but also how to address specific underlying issues that affect health, such as education and income.
It is everyone’s responsibility to help reduce the burdens on the area health-care system. Resources need to be available, and individual physical habits need to improve.
The study shows that Lucas County is surpassing Ohio and the nation in rates of adult obesity, sexually transmitted infections, a lack of diabetic and mammography screenings, and people without health insurance.
Still, better health begins with a stable foundation. Systemic changes will enable individuals to make better choices about their well-being. As it stands, we have little to boast about.