Health and wellness

HPIO launches resource page on income, health link

The Health Policy Institute of Ohio has launched a new resource page on the link between income and health.

More than a century of research has found strong connections between income and health. As a group, people with higher incomes live longer lives and experience better physical and mental health outcomes. Understanding how income influences health can inform policies, programs and resource allocation to improve the health and economic wellbeing of Ohioans.

In 2017, HPIO hosted an educational forum, Linking Health and Wealth: How Economic Vitality Can Lead to Healthier Ohioansand released a policy brief on the topic, Connections between Income and Health.

This page provides links to resources that were referenced during the forum and in the brief, as well as additional data and information on income and health.

Drug overuse by older Americans needs more attention, experts warn

For decades, experts have warned that older Americans are taking too many unnecessary drugs, often prescribed by multiple doctors, for dubious or unknown reasons, but the issue still attracts little attention (Source: “An Overlooked Epidemic: Older Americans Taking Too Many Unneeded Drugs,” Kaiser Health News, Dec. 12, 2017).

Researchers estimate that 25 percent of people ages 65 to 69 take at least five prescription drugs to treat chronic conditions, a figure that jumps to nearly 46 percent for those between 70 and 79.

Doctors say it is not uncommon to encounter patients taking more than 20 drugs to treat acid reflux, heart disease, depression or insomnia or other disorders.

At least 15 percent of seniors seeking care annually from doctors or hospitals have suffered a medication problem; in half of these cases, the problem is believed to be potentially preventable. Studies have linked polypharmacy to unnecessary death. Older patients, who have greater difficulty metabolizing medicines, are more likely to suffer dizziness, confusion and falls. And the side effects of drugs are frequently misinterpreted as a new problem, triggering more prescriptions, a process known as a prescribing cascade.

HPIO releases latest brief on education, health link

The Health Policy Institute of Ohio has released the second in its series of four policy briefs exploring the connection between health and education. Connections between Education and Health No. 2: Health Services in Schools focuses on how Ohio schools are providing health services to students and specific evidence-based policies and programs that have demonstrated both health and education benefits.

In addition to the 12-page brief, a 2-page executive summary and a summary of school health service requirements under Ohio law also are available.

HPIO released its first policy brief in the series, Connections between Education and Health, in January. The third brief will explore early learning policies and programs and is expected in August 2017. The final brief in the series, which will explore school-based prevention policies and programs that impact health and education outcomes, is expected in the fall.

Additional resources can be found on HPIO’s Intersections between Education and Health online resource page, which will be continually updated throughout 2017.

HPIO forum to address health, wealth link

The Health Policy Institute of Ohio is hosting a forum next month titled “Linking health and wealth: How economic vitality can lead to healthier Ohioans.”

There are many factors beyond health behaviors and access to healthcare services that impact our health. In order to be healthy, everyone needs the opportunity to earn a sufficient income and live in affordable, safe housing. The forum will explore state policy options to improve health outcomes and health equity by increasing economic development, labor force participation and income mobility.

Speakers include:

  • Anjum Hajat, University of Washington School of Public Health
  • David Norris, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity
  • And more to be announced 

The forum will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 27 at the Ohio University Dublin Integrated Education Center (6805 Bobcat Way, Dublin, OH 43016).

HPIO brief explores health value, tobacco use connection

The Health Policy Institute of Ohio has released A Closer Look at Tobacco Use and Health Value.

Building on the work of HPIO’s 2017 Health Value Dashboard, the brief explores tobacco use and its impact on population health and healthcare spending.

According to the Dashboard, Ohio ranks near the bottom in adult cigarette smoking (43) and secondhand smoke exposure for children (49) out of the 50 states plus D.C. Analysis of Dashboard data found that states with a lower adult smoking rate are more likely to have a better health value rank.

The brief also highlights the impact of smoking on Medicaid costs and outlines evidence-based approaches that work to reduce smoking rates.

Study: Lead exposure impacts children’s lives for decades

Children with elevated blood-lead levels at age 11 ended up as adults with lower cognitive function and lower-status occupations than their parents, according to new research that offers one of the clearest looks yet at the potential long-term health impact of the potent neurotoxin (Source: “Lead exposure alters the trajectory of children’s lives decades later, study finds,” Washington Post, March 28, 2017).

The findings, published Tuesday in JAMA, were based on a study that followed about 1,000 children born in the early 1970s in the coastal city of Dunedin, New Zealand. More than half were tested for lead in 1983, and nearly three decades later, those who’d had higher blood-lead levels as children were more likely to have lower IQs and to wind up lower on the socioeconomic ladder. Both associations remained even after researchers accounted for the children’s IQs, their mothers’ IQs and their social-class backgrounds.

“Lead damages brain health. We know what it does,” said study co-author Aaron Reuben, a graduate student in clinical psychology at Duke University. “What we didn’t know until this study was, how long do those effects last? … There’s no reason to believe they ever go away.”

Public health officials have repeatedly said that there is no safe level of lead in a child’s blood and that lead exposure can seriously affect the IQ and attention span of children, as well as cause other problems. But the new study adds another layer of evidence to what many scientists have long suspected — that environmental exposures to lead not only risk an array of physical, behavioral and cognitive problems but can change the very trajectory of a child’s life.

Ohio ranks 46th in latest HPIO Health Value Dashboard

The Health Policy Institute of Ohio this week released the latest edition of its Health Value Dashboard, which ranks states and the District of Columbia on a combination of population health and healthcare spending metrics. According to the Dashboard, Ohio ranks 46th in the nation in health value.

The Dashboard is unique in its emphasis on "health value," rather than on population health outcomes alone. No other national rankings factor in the impact of healthcare spending. The Dashboard also takes a more comprehensive approach in looking at health by evaluating social, economic and physical environments - which are significant contributors to overall health. The Dashboard provides in-depth data on 118 metrics.

The HPIO Health Value Dashboard shows that Ohioans live less healthy lives (43rd in population health) and spend more on health care (31st in healthcare spending) than other states.

The 2017 Health Value Dashboard is the second edition of the rankings. HPIO released its first Dashboard in late 2014. Ohio ranked 47th in health value in the inaugural edition.

Study ties poverty, mental health to chronic health conditions

More than half of Americans have at least one chronic disease, mental illness or problem with drugs or alcohol, according to a new study (Source: “More Than Half of Americans Have Chronic Health Problem: Study,” HealthDay News, Nov. 2, 2016).

The study, which was published in the journal Psychology, Health & Medicine, examined public health records to find out what percentage of U.S. adults have chronic medical conditions, mental illness or substance abuse problems, and how many were also living in poverty. Chronic medical conditions considered in the study included asthma, cirrhosis, diabetes, heart disease, hepatitis, high blood pressure, HIV/AIDS, lung cancer, pancreatitis and stroke, according to the report.

The study found that nearly 40 percent had at least one chronic medical condition. In addition, about 18 percent had been diagnosed with a mental illness in the past year, and about 9 percent abused drugs or alcohol during that time. The researchers reported that 2.2 million Americans have a chronic medical condition, a mental illness and a drug or alcohol problem.

Adults with a mental illness had more than triple the rate of drug or alcohol problems, and were nearly 1.5 times more likely to have an ongoing medical issue. They were also 1.2 times more likely to live in poverty, the findings showed.

"Just over half of adults in the U.S. have one or more chronic condition, mental disorder, or dependence on substances. These conditions commonly overlap with each other and with poverty, which contributes to poor health," Walker said in a journal news release. "In order to promote overall health, it is important to consider all of a person's health conditions along with poverty and other social factors."

Medicare to add diabetes prevention strategy

Medicare will start paying for a strategy to help millions of older Americans at high risk of diabetes from developing the disease, federal health officials announced this week (Source: “Medicare to begin paying for diabetes prevention strategy,” Washington Post, Nov. 2, 2016).

The new benefits, scheduled to begin in 2018, are part of an increasing shift in the federal entitlement program, from its half-century tradition of mainly covering treatment when beneficiaries are sick to paying to try to keep them healthy. The strategy to avert diabetes also is the first disease-prevention experiment, tested under part of the Affordable Care Act, which federal officials have concluded is worthwhile enough to adopt nationwide.

Stress may negate benefits of healthy diet, OSU study finds

Stress may counteract the beneficial effects of a healthful diet, according to a study by Ohio State University researchers (Source: “Stress May Counteract Effects of a Healthful Diet,” New York Times, Sept. 22, 2016).

The study, which appeared in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, looked at 58 women who first ate a meal high in saturated fats. Then, one to two weeks later, the women ate a meal low in saturated fats. The only difference between the meals was in the ratio of saturated fats to unsaturated. In all other respects — number of calories, types of food, and amounts of fat, carbohydrate and protein — they were identical.

Before each meal, the women completed several well-validated questionnaires assessing symptoms of depression over the past week and the number of daily stressors in the past 24 hours. Researchers took blood samples before and after each meal.

Among women who had low levels of stress, markers of inflammation tended to be higher after eating the meal containing high levels of saturated fat than after the low saturated fat meal.

But for women who had high levels of stress, those differences disappeared — they had high levels of inflammation even after the meal that was low in saturated fats.

“The surprise here is that stress made the healthier-fat meal look like the saturated-fat meal,” said the lead author, Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser, a professor of psychiatry at Ohio State University. “Stress is doing things with the metabolism that we really didn’t know about before.”