By: Jennifer Chubinski
Readers interested in health should check out the Health Policy Institute of Ohio’s health value dashboard available here.
The institute has gone to great lengths to create a dashboard of health value. This well-conceived and well-researched set of metrics helps provide a North Star to everyone working to improve the health of Ohioans. A great number of diverse and engaged stakeholders from across the state came together to design this dashboard. We could argue over the metrics. Are they the right ones? Do they capture what we want to improve in health value? As someone who wakes up every morning thinking about health data, I can state confidently that they are a strong collection of health measurements that meet the guidelines the advisory group established (see page 17 of the dashboard), most notably that the data are of high quality, consistently available and easy for the general public to understand.
So what does the dashboard tell us? There is really no doubt about the message: We have a lot of work to do!!
Readers will see that by simply flipping through the report and looking for green indicators. These are categories in which Ohio is among the top quarter of states. So where is Ohio doing well? We are among the top states for our high rates of employer-sponsored health insurance coverage, local health departments that have received accreditation, safe drinking water, fluoridated water, and our low rate of severe housing problems. That’s it. Ohio is in the top quarter of all states in only 5 indicators out of 106. We can do better than this. Wouldn’t you be proud if our population-level health data looked more like Hawaii’s? Not only is Hawaii among the top states for overall health value, but it is the top-ranked state on 11 indicators.
I work for Interact for Health, a Cincinnati-based organization that improves the health of people in our region by being a catalyst for health and wellness. We accomplish our mission by promoting healthy living through grants, education, policy and action. In our work, we have found it very powerful to shift from looking at percentages to looking at the actual number of people who would need to change their health behavior or health diagnoses in order to be at the same level as the number one state. It would be quite overwhelming to do that for all 106 metrics in the dashboard, but since I do a lot of population-level health tracking for the Cincinnati region, I thought I would focus on some of the population health indicators. (See page 7 of the dashboard.)
If Ohio wanted to be number one for these indicators we would need to make the following improvements:
- An average increase of 3.5 years in life expectancy
- 572 fewer infant deaths
- 614 fewer suicides per year
- 1,041 fewer drug overdose deaths
- 40,260 fewer obese high school students
- 98,210 fewer high school youths using any form of tobacco
- 535,321 fewer people reporting fair or poor health
- 686,995 adults doing more aerobic activity and muscle strengthening to meet physical activity guidelines
- 695,917 fewer adults who binge drink
- 714,000 adults with improved oral health
- 1,168,784 fewer adult smokers
OK folks, with those numbers in mind, what’s possible? Hawaii, Vermont, North Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado, West Virginia, Utah and Alaska are doing well in these metrics. Why can’t we? There are states that have poorer or older populations than Ohio, but still do better in terms of health ranking.
And there are evidence-based policies and programs that, if implement strategically in the public and private sectors, could improve Ohio’s health outcomes and costs. To learn more about these policies and programs, visit HPIO’s Guide to evidence-based prevention.
Now that we have this North Star, what are we going to do about it?
**Please note this post was originally written for the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. It is posted on its blog here.