National study finds Scioto County health to be worst in Ohio


By Patrick Keck - pkeck@aimmediamidwest.com



PORTSMOUTH — Scioto County ranked 88 out of 88 Ohio counties in terms of overall health in the 2020 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program, a study conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Using measures such as quality of life, social and economic factors, and health behaviors, including smoking and obesity, the county received marks consistently worse than Ohio’s averages.

Perhaps most striking was the study’s measure of premature death. Defined as years of potential life lost before the age of 75 per 100,000, Scioto County lost 13,100 years between 2016 and 2018. Also tied with Pike County, the rate is in stark contrast to Delaware County whose 4,100 years lost was the fewest in the state.

The county has been near the bottom of the results each year since 2012, ranking last in 2013 and 2014. Its best rating, 82nd, came in 2018. Many factors staying the same, Portsmouth City Health Department Interim Director Belinda Leslie believed the county’s ranking changed due to changes in other counties.

Low-points for the county addressed in the study- mental health, obesity and physical inactivity- already reached PCHD’s attention after first participating with the Community Health Needs Assessment in 2015. Leslie said the decision to participate came out of the department’s desire to be an accredited institution and would be following the Southern Ohio Medical Center, who has been involved in the study for many years.

Leslie said the goal of the study is to identify the most troubling health issues in the area. From there, in coordination with the Scioto County Health Department, the data was used to develop a Community Health Plan.

“The Community Health Assessment identified 12, we narrowed that down to five, and then picked the top three,” said Leslie, adding that decisions were made following extensive conversations with the Scioto County Health Coalition and community members. “It’s more of what can we actually move the needle on, what are the biggest issues.”

In the 2018-2019 study, the three categories- addiction, mental health and wellness- were identified to build workgroups. Goals and strategies to accomplish them are at the center of the workgroups with varying implementation dates.

For the county’s over20 population, the Robert Wood study found nearly 40% is obese and 36% reported no leisure-time physical activity, both above the state averages. To counter this and to have a physically healthier population, the group wants to see more access of affordable, healthy foods and safe sites for physical activity.

By the end of 2022, the groups would like to see:

  • Decrease, by 10%, the percentage of Scioto County residents who are food insecure
  • Increase, by 10%, the percentage of residents who eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day
  • Increase, by 10%, the percentage of adults who meet physical activity guidelines
  • Increase, by 10%, the percentage of residents with access to exercise opportunities to match the Ohio state average
  • Reduce, by 10%, the proportion of residents with fair/poor mental health
  • Increase, by 10%, the proportion of residents who have ever sought help for mental health
  • Decrease, by 10%, the proportion of residents unable to access mental health services in the past year
  • Increase, by 10%, the percentage of adults who have ever sought professional help for a drug or alcohol problem
  • Decrease, by 10%, the rate of unintentional drug-related deaths
  • Improve collaboration among the county’s substance abuse related organizations (as measured by reported mutual trust) from 60% to 70%
  • Implement and document at least five new or enhanced strategies (programs, policies, events) which improve employment, education, and/or housing

The coronavirus is already impacting health departments, who have had to place more attention on the pandemic and to make adjustments in its services. With programs like the originally weekly syringe exchange moved to every two weeks over three days and on modified hours, Leslie said the implementation of the workgroups will be majorly affected.

“Since we’ve really gotten nothing done in 2020, it’s really going to impact the implementation,” said Leslie. “We’re probably going to have to complemently change to revise the work plan and the schedule once we start meeting again.”

Hoping to resume meetings in October, Leslie projects the work is a year behind due to the coronavirus. Also delayed in the virus’s wake was Leslie’s plan to roll-out a new website for the Scioto County Health Coalition, which she said would inform the community on their latest work and have a detailed resource list.

“We want to be the go-to place for health information and resources in Scioto County,” said Leslie. “This is something we’ve really been lacking in, getting word to the public.”

The Portsmouth City Board of Health will meet in regular session Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, at 6 p.m. with public viewing through Zoom.

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By Patrick Keck – pkeck@aimmediamidwest.com

Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at pkeck@aimmediamidwest.com, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.

© 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.

Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at pkeck@aimmediamidwest.com, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.

© 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.