Physical environment

HPIO releases latest Health Value Dashboard

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The Health Policy Institute of Ohio has released the latest edition of its biennial Health Value Dashboardwhich found that Ohio ranks 44 on heath value compared to other states and D.C. (as displayed in the graphic above).

That means that Ohioans are living less healthy lives and spending more on health care than people in most other states.

The Dashboard is designed for policymakers and other public- and private-sector leaders to examine Ohio’s performance relative to other states, track change over time and identify and explore health disparities and inequities in Ohio. The report also highlights evidence-informed strategies that can be implemented to improve Ohio’s performance.

With more than 100 data metrics, the report can be a valuable tool as Ohio’s leaders continue to develop the state’s biennial budget over the next two months.

In the fifth edition of the Dashboard, HPIO identified three specific areas of strengths on which Ohio can build to create opportunities for improved health value in the state:

  • Strengthen Ohio’s workforce: Ohio can build upon recent success in attracting employers in high-growth industries to strengthen the workforce and reduce poverty
  • Foster mental well-being: Ohio can build upon expertise with, and community response to, the addiction crisis to become a national leader in behavioral health
  • Improve healthcare effectiveness: Ohio can build upon strengths in access to care to reinvigorate approaches to improving outcomes and controlling healthcare spending

Air pollution improving overall in U.S., disproportionately impacting the West, people of color

About 1 in 4 people in the United States – more than 119 million residents – live with air pollution that can hurt their health and shorten their lives, according to a new report (Source: “A quarter of Americans live with polluted air, with people of color and those in Western states disproportionately affected, report says,” CNN, April 19).

The report found that there were improvements in air quality overall. Generally, 17.6 million fewer people were breathing unhealthy air than in last year’s report, due largely to falling levels of ozone in some regions. Around 25% more counties got an A grade in the report for lower levels of ozone pollution.

However, the report also found that the number of people living in counties with failing grades for daily spikes of particle pollution was the highest it has been in a decade.

One driver of the high amounts of particle pollution are the wildfires that have consumed hundreds of thousands of acres. Those fires are why the regions with the highest concentrations of air pollution are largely in the West. 

Not everyone experiences pollution the same way in the U.S. Regardless of the region, communities of color bear the brunt of the problem. Specifically, although people of color make up 41% of the overall U.S. population, they are 54% of the nearly 120 million people living in counties with at least one failing grade for unhealthy air. And in the counties with the worst air quality, 72% of the 18 million residents are people of color, the report said.

Earlier this year, HPIO released a Health Value Dashboard fact sheet titled “A Closer Look at Outdoor Air Pollution and Health” that focuses on the importance of clean air and provides additional information on the outdoor air quality metric in the Dashboard.


Graphic of the week

OutAirQuality_Fig5CountyMap_StandAloneGraphic

Analysis from HPIO found that there are differences in air pollution exposure from county to county, as illustrated in the graphic above. Hamilton and Cuyahoga counties have the highest levels of PM2.5 air pollution in the state, with high levels also reported across western and central Ohio.

The finding was included in HPIO’s recently released Health Value Dashboard policy brief titled “A closer look at outdoor air pollution and health.”

Clean air and water, safe places to walk outside and access to healthy food are examples of conditions in the physical environment that affect the health and well-being of Ohioans. Outdoor air quality is included in the 2021 Health Value Dashboard™, where Ohio ranked 46th, meaning that most other states have cleaner outdoor air.

HPIO is planning to release the 2023 Health Value Dashboard in early May.


74% of East Palestine residents report headaches following train derailment

Almost three in four East Palestine residents who completed a health assessment after the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern derailment reported experiencing headaches, Gov. Mike DeWine’s office reported last week (Source: “East Palestine update: 74% of residents reported experiencing headaches, according to health surveys,” Cleveland.com, March 3).

Late Friday afternoon, the governor’s office released the results of the survey done by federal, state and local officials. Residents completed an “after chemical exposure” community survey – with 168 questionnaires completed – aimed at providing information on how people may be impacted.

The other most common symptoms among East Palestine residents include anxiety (64%), coughing (61%), fatigue/tiredness (58%) and irritation, pain or burning of skin (52%).

Residents answered the surveys when they visited the East Palestine Health Assessment Clinic, which is run by the Ohio Department of Health and the Columbiana County Health District, as well as during door-to-door visits by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services representatives.


Growing list of states consider ways to regulate ‘forever chemicals’

State lawmakers across the country are looking for ways to address “forever chemicals” that don’t break down naturally and are shown to cause a myriad of  health issues (Source: “A Slew of State Proposals Shows the Threat of 'Forever Chemicals',” Pew Stateline, Feb. 14).
 
Several states have passed landmark laws in recent years, and now dozens of legislatures are considering hundreds of bills to crack down on using such compounds. The legislation would strengthen product disclosure laws, increase liability for polluters, bolster testing plans and enact water quality standards. 
 
Thousands of chemicals make up the group known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. The chemicals have been found in an increasing number of watersheds and aquifers — as well as in the blood of nearly every American. 
 
Some PFAS compounds, research shows, can increase the risk of cancer, damage immune systems, cause metabolic disorders and decrease fertility. 
 
Safer States, an alliance of environmental health groups focused on toxic chemicals, has tracked more than 260 proposals in 31 states related to toxic chemicals, many focused on PFAS (there are no bills being considered in Ohio, according to the group’s bill tracker). Eleven of those states will consider sweeping restrictions or bans of PFAS across many economic sectors. Those bills follow a Maine law passed in 2021 that was the first in the country to ban PFAS in all new products, which will take effect in 2030.


Officials say air quality returns to normal following East Palestine train derailment

In the week since officials conducted what they called a "controlled release" of vinyl chloride from five derailed train cars in East Palestine near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, concern has grown among some over the quality of the air in and around the village of nearly 5,000 people (Source: “Is the air in East Palestine safe to breathe? Here's what experts and officials say,” Columbus Dispatch, Feb. 14).

Some East Palestine residents who have since returned to their homes after being evacuated have reported experiencing headaches and nausea. Others say the air has a foul odor to it.

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Director of the Ohio Department of Health, said during a news conference Tuesday that most of the chemicals on the Norfolk Southern train that derailed Feb. 3 are volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are emitted during everyday activities like pumping gas, burning wood or natural gas, he said.

Low levels of VOCs can be smelled and sometimes cause headaches and irritation, said Vanderhoff, who noted that most people can be around VOCs at low levels without feeling ill. High levels can result in longer-term health effects, he said.

Vanderhoff said recent testing shows the air in East Palestine was just like it was prior to the train derailment.

Last month, HPIO released a new Health Value Dashboard fact sheet titled “A closer look at outdoor air pollution and health.” The fact sheet focuses on the importance of clean air and provides additional information on the outdoor air quality metric in the Dashboard.


HPIO releases new brief on link between outdoor air pollution, health in Ohio

OutAirQuality_Fig5CountyMap_StandAloneGraphic
Click to enlarge



The Health Policy Institute of Ohio has released a new 2021 Health Value Dashboard policy brief titled “A closer look at outdoor air pollution and health.”

Clean air and water, safe places to walk outside and access to healthy food are examples of conditions in the physical environment that affect the health and well-being of Ohioans. Outdoor air quality is included in the 2021 Health Value Dashboard™, where Ohio ranked 46th, meaning that most other states have cleaner outdoor air.

The brief found that there are differences in air pollution exposure from county to county, as illustrated in the graphic above. Hamilton and Cuyahoga counties have the highest levels of PM2.5 air pollution in the state, with high levels also reported across western and central Ohio.

Analysis by HPIO has found that the physical environment (including outdoor air quality) is strongly connected to a state’s overall health, only surpassed by public health and prevention. In fact, analysis of 2021 Dashboard data finds that the physical environment has a much stronger correlation with the overall health of a state than access to care or healthcare system performance.

The policy brief focuses on the importance of clean air and provides additional information on the outdoor air quality metric in the Dashboard, including how:

  • Air pollution affects health outcomes
  • Recent policy changes may affect air pollution
  • Outdoor air quality can be improved in Ohio

Graphic of the week

OutdoorAirQuality_Fig1_Standalone

New analysis from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio has found air quality across the country, including Ohio, has improved in recent years because of federal policy changes, such as the Clean Air Act. Ohio’s air quality is now better than the U.S., although the state still has room to improve to ensure that Ohioans are breathing clean air. While much of this improvement results from federal legislation, state and local policymakers have a role to play in improving air quality in the state.
 
The analysis will be included in a new Health Value Dashboard spin-off brief that HPIO plans to release next month. The brief will take a closer look at the link between outdoor air quality and health and provide additional information on the outdoor air quality metric in the Dashboard, including how:

  • Air pollution affects health outcomes
  • Recent policy changes may affect air pollution
  • Outdoor air quality can improve in Ohio 

UPDATED (01.13.2023): Since the publication of this graphic by HPIO, the source updated data for air quality from 2018-2020, which altered the Ohio and US values. Updated data can be found on the America's Health Ranking website. An updated version of the graphic is included in HPIO's January 2023 policy brief Health Value Dashboard: A Closer Look at Outdoor Air Pollution and Health.


Schools slow to use federal COVID funding to improve indoor air quality

Despite billions of dollars in federal covid-relief money available to upgrade heating and air-conditioning systems and improve air quality and filtration in K-12 schools, U.S. public schools have been slow to begin projects that have the potentional to improve the overall health of students (Source: “Covid Funding Pries Open a Door to Improving Air Quality in Schools,” Kaiser Health News, June 13).

According to a report released this month from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than 40% of public schools had replaced or upgraded their HVAC systems since the start of the pandemic. Even fewer were using high-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, filters in classrooms (28%), or fans to increase the effectiveness of having windows open (37%).

Both the CDC and White House have stressed indoor ventilation as a potent weapon in the battle to contain covid. And a wealth of data shows that improving ventilation in schools has benefits well beyond covid.

Good indoor air quality is associated with improvements in math and reading; greater ability to focus; fewer symptoms of asthma and respiratory disease; and less absenteeism. Nearly 1 in 13 U.S. children have asthma, which leads to more missed school days than any other chronic illness.


HHS launches office of environmental justice to address health inequities

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced it is establishing an Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ), bringing awareness to the impact of environmental health inequities (Source: “HHS Launches Office of Environmental Justice, Tackles Health Inequity,” Patient Engagement HIT, June 3).
 
“The blunt truth is that many communities across our nation – particularly low-income communities and communities of color – continue to bear the brunt of pollution from industrial development, poor land-use decisions, transportation, and trade corridors,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in the press release. “Meeting the needs of these communities requires our focused attention. That’s why HHS is establishing the Office of Environmental Justice.”
 
Until June 18, 2022, the OEJ will be seeking public comment to identify the best strategies for addressing environmental injustices and health inequities for disadvantaged communities.