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Health inequity alive and well in Ohio




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Last month, the Health Policy Institute of Ohio released its annual Health Value Dashboard, its marquee report analyzing health outcomes and cost of healthcare in the state of Ohio. This year, the report had a special focus on health equity. This section covers both the progress the state has made on the health equity front and the challenges Ohio still faces in reducing disparities between different groups in the state.

The dashboard shows how persistent disparities are in Ohio.

For instance, Black Ohioans are much more likely to experience racial discrimination than white Ohioans. A Black state resident is 10 times more likely to be treated worse in healthcare or at work due to race. A Black child in Ohio is nine times more likely than a white child to experience unfair treatment due to race. And Black residents are six times more likely than white residents to experience physical or emotional symptoms due to this discrimination.

Black Ohioans also suffer from social constraints compared to white Ohioans. They are six times more likely to be incarcerated compared to white Ohioans, four times more likely to not own a car, and three times more likely to be unemployed.

Black children are especially vulnerable, four times more likely than white children to be food insecure, three times more likely to be in poverty, and three times more likely to die in infancy.

Hispanic Ohioans suffer their own struggles. They are nine times more likely to suffer unfair treatment due to race as children and four times more likely to have physical or emotional symptoms due to discrimination than non-Hispanic whites.

Hispanic children are three times as likely to be food insecure and twice as likely to be in poverty as non-Hispanic white children. And adults are three times as likely to not have health insurance, twice as likely to not have a college degree, and twice as likely to be unable to see a doctor due to cost as non-Hispanic white Ohioans.

Having a disability also puts Ohioans at a disadvantage. People with disabilities in Ohio are three times as likely to be depressed, to be out of the labor force, or to not graduate from high school than those without a disability. They’re also twice as likely to be food insecure as children or suffer adverse childhood experiences like abuse or neglect.

Being low-income also creates challenges for Ohioans. Low-income Ohioans are 190 times more likely to be severely housing cost burdened than higher-income Ohioans and 55 times more likely to be food insecure.

LGBTQ+ Ohioans, too, experience disparities. LGBTQ+ youth in Ohio are five times more likely to consider suicide and four times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youth. LBGTQ+ adults in the state are three times as likely to experience depression than heterosexual adults.

This snapshot gives us a picture of what health inequities look like in Ohio. A blend of economic and social changes will be needed to level the playing field. People need resources in order to access health care, but they also need a society that provides fair treatment and accepts all people, no matter what their ethnicity, physical or mental challenges, socioeconomic status, or sexual identity happen to be.

In particular, the report highlights workforce interventions like career technical education, childcare subsidies, and paid family leave. It also proposes mental health interventions like mental health and addiction workforce recruitment and retention, integration of physical and mental health, and recovery housing. Last, it suggests healthcare system improvements like primary care workforce training, school-based health services, and cost containment.

These sorts of interventions could improve health quality in Ohio and potentially close gaps between key groups in the state.

Rob Moore is the principal for Scioto Analysis, a public policy analysis firm based in Columbus. Moore has worked as an analyst in the public and nonprofit sectors and has analyzed diverse issue areas such as economic development, environment, education, and public health. He holds a Master of Public Policy from the University of California Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Denison University.

This commentary was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

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