New report reveals Adams County is least healthy in state

Study finds poverty, obesity, drugs are major factors – 

By Patricia Beech – 

Adams County has scored dead last in the 2018 Health Rankings for the state of Ohio, according to an annual report compiled by the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The Rankings are unique in their ability to measure the current overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states. They also look at a variety of measures that affect the future health of communities, such as high school graduation rates, access to healthy food, rates of smoking, obesity, and teen births.
For nearly a decade, the Rankings have shown that where we live makes a difference in how well and how long we live.
This year, as in year’s past, the analysis shows that meaningful health gaps persist based largely on where people live.
These health gaps are primarily influenced by differences in opportunities that appear to disproportionately affect people who live in rural areas, such as access to quality education, jobs, and safe, affordable housing.
The study looked at more than 30 factors that negatively influence people’s health, including smoking, drug abuse, and obesity.
Galia, Vinton, Jackson, Pike and Adams Counties earned the five bottom rankings, with Adams County being the unhealthiest of the five.
Adams County Health Commissioner, Dr. William Hablitzel, said the health rankings are “a reaffirmation of what we discovered when we did our community health assessment.”
“Our number one problem was identified as drug and substance abuse, then mental health issues, followed by obesity, and chronic diseases like diabetes,” he said. “All of these issues can be linked to or made worse by poverty and lack of primary healthcare, which can also be poverty-driven.”

Adams County has remained somewhat static in the health rankings over the last three years. In 2015 and 2016, it ranked 87th before falling to 88th in 2017.

According to Hablitzel, the lowest ranking counties all share contributing factors.

“Looking at the state’s Health Rankings map, you can see we are clustered along with other small rural Appalachian counties, all of whom have poor outcomes in the health rankings. We share similar things – economics, Appalachian culture, and common health problems.”

Communities can use the Rankings to help identify issues and opportunities for local health improvement, as well as to garner support for initiatives among governmet agencies, healthcare providers, community organizations, business leaders, policy makers, and the public.

Hablitzel cites programs such as the Community Health Improvement Plan that will in time allow Adams County to make greater strides toward healthier outcomes.

“We’re looking at ways to impact these issues, such as having a life-skills curriculum in our schools,” he said. “We’re working with both districts to get this training into our schools to help prevent drug abuse, and to address mental health issues that lead to risky behavior.”

The amount of funding from federal and state sources for public health education has declined over the past decade, and Hablitzel says he doesn’t “see that getting better” in the near future.

“We have dark economic clouds on the horizon with the loss of the power plants and the loss of tax base they provided,” adds the Health Commissioner. “Those two things alone will make it more challenging for a rural area like ours.”