Health rankings place Montgomery County among lowest in state

The new county health rankings show once again that Montgomery County is one of the lowest ranked counties in the state while neighboring Greene and Warren counties are some of the highest ranked counties.

The annual health rankings from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin researchers rank each of Ohio’s 88 counties based on health outcomes, as well as detail more than 30 clinical and social factors that impact residents’ health.

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Delaware County, north of Columbus, had the highest ranking in Ohio and Adams County had the lowest ranking.

The health rankings of each county roughly line up with the county income levels and poverty rates, which are connected issues, according to Zach Reat with Health Policy Institute of Ohio, which does nonpartisan health research.

Reat said health is heavily influenced by factors outside of the doctor’s office, from where a person works, to where they live, to where they are able to exercise and socialize.

“All of these factors contribute to our overall health and income plays a critical factor across all of these areas,” Reat said.

That’s why job training, educational programs and earned income tax credits are also good health policy, said Amy Bush Stevens, also with Health Policy Institute.

Montgomery County was ranked 81 out of 88 Ohio counties for health outcomes. About 21 percent of adults in the county smoke, 36 percent are obese and 16 percent of adults report binge or heavy drinking.

The report also analyzed factors that relate to a person’s health such as housing, poverty and education.

In Montgomery County, 23 percent of children live in poverty, which is the highest in the nine county region surrounding Dayton.

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Montgomery County also has the highest rate of severe housing problems in the region. About 17 percent of Montgomery County households experience problems with overcrowding, high housing costs, lack of kitchen facilities or lack of plumbing facilities.

Warren County had the best ranking in the region, which ranked 6 out of 88 counties when it comes to health outcomes. Statewide it also had one of the lowest child poverty rates (6 percent), one of the highest high school graduation rates (97%) and one of the lowest rates of households experiencing severe housing problems (10%).

For Greene County Public Health, which ranked 14th best for health outcomes, the health data from the annual rankings is one of the tools they use to understand what the most pressing needs are.

Sheryl Wynn, accreditation coordinator at Greene County Public Health, said some of the areas of focus for the county are addressing obesity, addiction and tobacco use, which are the root cause of many other health problems.

With obesity, it can be a factor in other chronic diseases that lead to premature death such as heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease. Greene County has a 30 percent obesity rate, a little below the state average of 32 percent.

“We are focusing in on obesity in hopes that reducing that rate will also reduce those rates of other chronic diseases and premature death,” Wynn said.

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Tobacco and nicotine use, including the rising rate of of e-cigarettes use, are also areas of concern and Public Health has been working on prevention and quit initiatives, such as encouraging businesses and housing complexes to go tobacco-free to reduce exposure.

Wynn said opioid addiction is also a driver of poor health outcomes, and the county is working on prevention, treatment and support initiatives to help area residents and their families.

“The opioid and drug overdose deaths — even though it’s gone down from where we were at our height — that’s still an area where we are actively working in our community,” she said.

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