A year after completing a community health assessment the Highland County Health Department is exploring ways to address issues the assessment exposed. The next step is creating a Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) that seeks to improve the health and wellness of the individuals and families who live and work in Highland County.
A meeting for anyone interested will be held at 9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 16 at the Highland County Health Department, 1487 N. High St., Suite 400, Hillsboro.
“The health department has worked hard to identify the greatest health issues facing Highland County. The CHIP process allows us to develop a community plan for addressing these problems. The more community input we have, the stronger these efforts to improve our health will be,” said Jared Warner, Highland County health commissioner.
Warner said that all health departments in Ohio are now required to be accredited, somewhat like a hospital or college. He said the first step of that process was creating the community health assessment, and now the CHIP is the next step.
At the community meeting, Warner said those in attendance will look over the health assessment report and try to identify the county’s biggest problems.
“We’ll try to determine which problems we can have an impact on and which ones we want to focus our efforts on,” Warner said.
The assessment completed last year was developed by a countywide coalition, led by Highland County Community Action and Ohio State University. A survey was completed by 433 county residents that provided information on economic data, lifestyle choices, health and wellness and mental health.
Some of the highlights from the report include:
• The county’s poverty rate was estimated to be 20.3 percent in 2014. Approximately 33 percent of the county’s children live in poverty and 55 percent of the county’s students were identified as economically disadvantaged.
• Highland County has been identified as both a Health Professional Shortage Area and Mental Health – Health Professional Shortage Area.
• Overall, Highland County tends to rank lower than state and national averages in many areas of community health. It has a higher rate of premature death than the Ohio and national averages. Fifteen out of the last 21 years the county’s premature death rate has increased, while Ohio’s rate has remained steady and the federal rate is declining.
• Highland County has an obesity rate higher than the state and national averages. The county rate has risen consistently since 2005.
• Physical activity is lower in Highland County than the state and national averages, though that trend has been improving since 2009.
• Cancer rates in Highland County tend to be below state averages, but mortality rates (deaths caused by cancer) tend to higher. This is likely caused by the lack of access to health care and the lack of preventative health care received by county residents, the report said.
• Substance abuse, in particular opiate abuse, remains a significant issue for Highland County’s community health. Substance abuse leads to direct physical and mental health needs, and also becomes a contributing factor for many other health concerns. Opiate abuse is the leading cause of accidental death in the county. According to Ohio Drug Overdose Data, the county experienced 10 drug-related deaths in 2010 and 22 in 2016.
According to the health assessment, the community rates the following health issues as the biggest facing the county: illegal drug use (89 percent of those surveyed), prescription drug abuse (68 percent), obesity (66 percent), tobacco use (54 percent) and alcohol use (51 percent).
For more information call the health department at 937-393-1941.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.