Ohio statistics

Ohio set new record for overdose deaths in 2020, CDC reports

The toll of fatal drug overdoses last year hit Ohio even worse than initially thought, according to newly released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (Source: “Capitol Insider: As feared, Ohio smashes record for drug overdose deaths last year,” Columbus Dispatch, July 16).

The new figures showed that the agency projected Ohio to hit 5,215 drug deaths — fourth in the U.S. for the nation's seventh-largest state — breaking the record of 4,854 set in 2017. The CDC warned that the 2020 figure will grow; the current total is regarded as underreported due to incomplete data.

In 2014, Ohio led the country in overdose deaths — although the 2020 total is some 2.5 times higher.

A big jump was feared by many because of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. Indeed, overdose deaths for the nation as a whole increased every month last year, the CDC data show.

In all, the U.S. saw 93,331 people die from drug overdoses in 2020, a 29.4% leap over 2019.


New HPIO brief explores connections between criminal justice and health

The Health Policy Institute of Ohio has released a new brief titled  Connections between Criminal Justice and Health.

According to the brief, “The research evidence is clear that poor mental health and addiction are risk factors for criminal justice involvement and that incarceration is detrimental to health.”

The brief highlights the many factors that impact both criminal justice and health outcomes, finding that:

  • There is a two-way relationship between criminal justice and health. Mental health and addiction challenges can lead to arrest and incarceration, and incarceration contributes to poor behavioral and physical health for many Ohioans.
  • Racism and community conditions contribute to criminal justice involvement and poor health. Racist and discriminatory policies and practices and community conditions, such as poverty, housing instability and exposure to trauma, lead to increased criminal justice involvement and drive poor health outcomes.
  • Improvement is possible. There are evidence-informed policy solutions to combat the drivers of criminal justice involvement and poor health outcomes.

The brief includes 15 specific evidence-informed policy options focused on:

  • Supporting mental well-being and improving crisis response for people at higher risk of criminal justice involvement
  • Reducing the number of people incarcerated in Ohio
  • Improving health for people who are currently or formerly incarcerated
  • Improving community conditions for people who are at higher risk of criminal justice involvement

Heart disease, diabetes, other leading causes of death up in 2020, federal data shows

The U.S. saw remarkable increases in the death rates for heart disease, diabetes and some other common killers in 2020, and experts believe a big reason may be that people stayed away from the hospital for fear of catching COVID-19 (Source: “US deaths from heart disease and diabetes climbed amid COVID,” Associated Press, June 9).

The death rates — posted online this week by federal health authorities — add to the growing body of evidence that the number of lives lost directly or indirectly to the coronavirus in the U.S. is far greater than the officially reported COVID-19 death toll of nearly 600,000 in 2020-21.

Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly 3.4 million Americans died in 2020, an all-time record. Of those deaths, more than 345,000 were directly attributed to COVID-19. The CDC also provided the numbers of deaths for some of the leading causes of mortality, including the nation’s top two killers, heart disease and cancer.

Earlier research done by demographer Kenneth Johnson at the University of New Hampshire found that an unprecedented 25 states, including Ohio, saw more deaths than births overall last year (most states typically have more births than deaths).


Rural areas of Ohio, U.S. lag behind in COVID-19 vaccine rates

Just 32% of the eligible population in Ohio’s 15 least populous counties are vaccinated, on average, according to an analysis of data from the Ohio Department of Health (Source: “In Ohio and U.S., vaccine coverage lags in rural areas,” Ohio Capital Journal, May 20).

This trails both the statewide and national average (about 48%), adding another piece to a vexing puzzle of vaccine hesitancy.

On Tuesday, the CDC published research finding the trend holds nationwide: COVID-19 vaccination coverage was lower in rural counties (38.9%) than urban counties (45.7%), according to an analysis of data from adults aged 18-and-up between Dec. 14 and April 10.

For Ohio, the split was slightly broader: 37.2% in rural counties vs. 45.3% in urban counties, according to the CDC.


Ohio drug overdose deaths top 5,000 in 2020

Drug overdoses killed more Ohioans in 2020 than in at least the previous 14 years, a grim milestone likely made possible by the pandemic (Source: “'Every death is a heartache:' More than 5,000 Ohioans died of a drug overdose in 2020,” Columbus Dispatch, May 7).

At least 5,001 Ohioans died of overdoses last year, according to a Columbus Dispatch analysis of mortality data from the Ohio Department of Health as of Tuesday.  The total number of overdose deaths in 2020 is likely to increase since county coroners have six months to investigate, meaning 2020 overdose deaths could climb further.

The COVID-19 pandemic undeniably contributed to the rise of overdoses in 2020, said Lori Criss, Director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

The pandemic changed life as Ohioans knew it, forcing many into isolation to stop the spread of the virus. In difficult times, it's more common for people to turn to drugs, or for those in recovery to relapse, Criss said.

Lockdowns across the world also led to one drug flooding the market: fentanyl. Fentanyl was readily available, is easy to transport and is often discreetly hidden in mail. Fentanyl was a factor in 81% of 2020 overdose deaths, Criss said.


Wealthier counties in Ohio also have highest COVID vaccine rates

ounties in Ohio with the highest incomes also have the highest vaccination rates, according to analysis from the Columbus Dispatch (Source: “Wealthier Ohio counties more likely to have higher COVID vaccination rates,” Columbus Dispatch, April 19).

The Dispatch found a 27-percentage point difference in vaccination rates between Ohio's wealthiest and poorest counties. Delaware County, the wealthiest county in the state, is also the most vaccinated against COVID-19.

The connection does not come as a surprise to most experts who see it as a result of long-term disparities in health care.

In Ohio, vaccines were distributed to each county mostly based on population and a few risk factors. But the state didn't require Ohioans to get their shots in their counties of residence, meaning people with the time and the means could travel to get vaccinated.

People with more flexibility in their jobs tend to make more money and have good access to transportation, said HPIO President Amy Rohling McGee. That translates to more access to COVID-19 shots and health care services as a whole, she said.


Ohio ranks near bottom in latest HPIO Health Value Dashboard

Ohio ranks 47 in the nation in health value compared to other states and D.C. according to the latest edition of the Health Value Dashboard, which was released earlier this week by the Health Policy Institute of Ohio.

“Ohioans live less healthy lives and spend more on health care than people in most other states,” according to the Dashboard.

Ohio has consistently ranked near the bottom on health value in each of the four editions of the Dashboard. Ohio’s overall health value ranking was 47 in 2014, 46 in 2017 and 46 in 2019. 

The Dashboard found that Ohio’s healthcare spending is mostly on costly downstream care to treat health problems. This is largely because of a lack of attention and effective action in the following areas:

  • Children. Childhood adversity and trauma have long-term consequences
  • Equity. Ohioans with the worst outcomes face systemic disadvantages
  • Prevention. Sparse public health workforce leads to missed opportunities for prevention

The Dashboard is a tool to track Ohio’s progress toward health value — a composite measure of Ohio’s performance on population health and healthcare spending. In ranked profiles, the Dashboard examines Ohio’s rank and trend performance relative to other states across seven domains. In addition, through a series of equity profiles, the Dashboard highlights gaps in outcomes between groups for some of Ohio’s most systematically disadvantaged populations.

The Dashboard includes examples of nine evidence-informed policies that could be adopted by Ohio policymakers and private-sector partners to make Ohio a leader in health value.


HPIO fact sheet highlights connection between affordable housing, health equity

The Health Policy Institute of Ohio released a new fact sheet titled “Housing Affordability and Health Equity,” which explores the connection between affordable and safe housing and health.

According to the fact sheet, “Quality, affordable housing is vital for Ohio families to maintain stable employment and long-term health. Low wages, a lack of safe and affordable housing and the impacts of racism and housing discrimination result in many Ohioans spending a significant portion of their income on poor quality housing in neighborhoods that are disconnected from necessary resources, including high-quality health care and high paying jobs.”

The fact sheet notes:

  • About one-fifth of white Ohio renters (21%) spent over 50% of their income on housing in 2017. This housing cost burden was even higher for Latino and Black Ohioans.
  • Many workers were not paid enough to afford a 2-bedroom apartment at fair market rent (FMR) in Ohio in 2020.
  • There were only 42 affordable rental units for every 100 renter households with incomes at or below the poverty line or 30% area median income in Ohio in 2019.

The fact sheet also includes links to existing state plans and resources that include evidence-based strategies policymakers can focus on to improve housing affordability in Ohio.


COVID vaccination rates lag for Black Ohioans

Of the more than 1.8 million Ohioans who have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination dose, only 5.6% went to Black Ohioans, who comprise about 13% of Ohio’s population (Source: “Black Ohioans are 13% of state population, but 5.6% of the vaccine recipients,” Ohio Capital Journal, March 5).

Part of the explanation for the gap: Black people comprise 14.3% of the general population in the U.S., according to 2019 census estimates. However, because of lower life expectancy, they comprise just 9.7% of the 65-and-up population, which most states have prioritized for the vaccines.

“It is likely a conglomeration of a number of different factors,” said Reem Aly, a vice president at the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. “It is going to be inequities we see in access to care, historically, we know that there is racism within the health care system and there is an understandable mistrust in Black communities of health care providers. That is certainly contributing to the issue.”


1 in 3 Ohio nursing homes is facing staffing shortage, AARP dashboard reports

Over one-third of Ohio nursing homes and long-term care facilities faced a shortage of direct care workers in January, according to new data released this week (Source: “Staff shortages plague 1 in 3 Ohio nursing homes; nearly 1 in 4 in Kentucky struggle too,” Cincinnati Enquirer, Feb. 15).

The data is part of the AARP COVID-19 Dashboard, which uses information reported each week by nursing homes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Long-term care facilities have made up almost half of Ohio’s COVID-19 deaths, despite combined resident and staff cases comprising only 8% of the state's total cases. 

And the solutions available to nursing homes to curb these shortages, such as bringing in temporary workers or extending hours of current staff, could potentially spread COVID-19 to both residents and staff, one expert said.