Ohio moved up one spot from last year to No. 35 on America's Health Rankings annual list of the healthiest states despite continuing to rank high for unhealthy habits and conditions, including obesity, lack of exercise and smoking.
Despite a statewide smoking ban, about 25 percent of the adult population -- or 2.2 million people -- still smokes, compared to about 21 percent nationally, according to the report published Tuesday by the United Health Foundation, American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.
The report also found about 30 percent of adult Ohioans are obese, compared to about 28 percent of adults nationally. And more than a quarter (27 percent) of adult Ohioans reported doing no physical activity or exercise other than their regular job in the past month, compared to 26 percent of adults nationwide.
"The rankings are relative to other states, so even if a state doesn't show specific improvements, if other states do worse, their ranking may still improve," explained Lauren Mihajlov, a spokeswoman for the United Health Foundation.
Perhaps even more disturbing than the general health findings were the high mortality levels reported in the Buckeye State. Ohio's rankings ranged from No. 36 to No. 43 for infant mortality deaths, cardiovascular deaths and premature deaths, according to the report.
Tessie Pollock, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Health, said the report underscores the need for a "holistic" approach to improving public health by addressing not only the immediate health care needs of the population but also economic and educational needs that can contribute to poor health.
Ohio improved its spending on public health from $45 per person last year to $51 per person this year, according to the report, although it still ranks Ohio 43rd nationally.
"We're always trying to improve," Pollock said.
"While this report looks at a lot of different determinants ... we at the department of health are really trying to take a coordinated approach to address the whole health of an individual."
A healthy populace, and therefore a healthy workforce, is also key to a vibrant economy, said John Bowblis, a health economist at Miami University.
"We want a healthy workforce for a few reasons," Bowblis said. "Unhealthy lifestyles can lead to increased health care costs and higher (insurance) premiums. Having a healthy workforce lowers the average premium and makes Ohio more attractive, economically, for firms to invest in."
Ohio already fares better than most other states when it comes to health insurance.
More than 92 percent of Ohio children ages 19 to 35 months have immunization coverage, ranking 13th among all states. And about 14 percent of adults lack any health insurance at all, placing Ohio No. 21 in the state rankings.
For overall health, Vermont topped the list of healthiest states this year for the fourth year in a row. Rounding out the top five were Hawaii, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Minnesota.
Mississippi and Louisiana, which tied for 49th, along with Arkansas, West Virginia, and South Carolina comprised the five least healthy states, according to the rankings.
Contact this reporter at 937-225-2437 or email [email protected] ___