County health among worst in the state

By Tom Corrigan - [email protected]

Not feeling well? Perhaps you can take some solace in the fact that, if you live in Scioto County, you’re probably not alone.

According to a study prepared by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and released earlier this month, Scioto County ranks 82nd of 88 Ohio counties in terms of the overall health of the population.

In a prepared statement, the foundation says the study looks at multiple health and environmental factors, including access to care, transportation, housing and jobs, using the most recent data from such sources as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the U.S. Census Bureau.

In terms of the local picture, howver, there is a bit of good news in the study. Scioto County improved from 86th to 82nd in terms of health outcomes, and moved up from 87th to 85th in the rankings for health factors. Scioto County Health Commissioner Mark Martin says health factors include such things as obesity, inactive lifestyles, extreme drinking and premature deaths. For Martin, cigarette smoking seems to be just about the most dangerous thing you can do to yourself. When talking about the cause of preventable deaths, Martin says smoking “ranks first, second and third.”

Compared with last year, the county has made some progress in that regard. According to the Johnson Foundation study, the rate of smoking locally has decreased from 33 to 22 percent. Martin was at somewhat of a loss to explain why. “Part of it is education,” he says, adding that perhaps younger generations have begun to catch on to just how bad smoking is for your health.

However, the overall study makes clear the county’s population still struggles, as already noted, with high rates of obesity and with inactive lifestyles.

For example, the adult obesity rate in the county is 40 percent compared to the state average of 32 percent. The rate of physical inactivity is at 34 percent, compared to the state average of 26 percent.

Overall, 22 percent of all persons in the county suffer poor or fair health. The state average is 17 percent. The county fared somewhat better in terms of what were called mental health days, with a rate of 4.5 percent compared to the state average of 4.3 percent.

“Sadly,” Martin says, “we have a high number of drug overdoses as reported in the unintentional injury portion. We continue to have a problem with opioid addiction and overdose. What we’re doing for this population is not working. We need to provide proper long-term treatment with medications if we’re to turn the tide here.”

“It is encouraging to see that we are trending downward in smoking, but adult obesity and physical inactivity have gotten slightly worse,” says Chris Smiths, Portsmouth city health commissioner. “Also, our uninsured and access to care numbers have improved, however, that is not reflecting a healthier population. We need to continue to focus on improving the health behaviors of our population, specifically diet and exercise, in coordination with our community partners and the Scioto County Health Coalition.”

Here are a few other notable facts from the Johnson Foundation report:

According to Martin, the average age reached by males in this country is 78; for women, that figure is 80. A premature death occurs anytime someone does not reach the average age. Locally, according to the Johnson Foundation, there has been some 10,000 years of potential life lost over an unspecified period. That number is nearly twice the top U.S. performer of 5,300. The Ohio average is 7,700.

The number of primary care physicians available locally is 1,670:1. The Ohio average is 1,030:1.

About eight percent of the county’s population is uninsured. That’s also the state average.

The foundation reports 32 percent of the county’s children live in poverty. That’s compared with 20 percent statewide.

One area in which the county ranks very well is in the incidence of violent crime. The county saw 152 violent crimes last year, compared with the state average of 290.

Martin says there does not seem to be any environmental factors, such as air or water pollution, that play into the county’s poor health rankings. “I think it’s all related to smoking, to tell you the truth.”

Incidentally, Martin adds the jury is still out as to whether so-called vaping or e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes. He says vaping has helped some of his patients quit traditional cigarettes by supplying an alternative source of nicotine.

To view the complete Johnson Foundation report, go to

By Tom Corrigan

[email protected]

Reach Tom Corrigan at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931

Reach Tom Corrigan at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931