How healthy is Butler County? Drop in state ranking has several causes

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Stunning aerial view of downtown Hamilton

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

An annual report measuring the health outcomes of residents in counties nationwide found Butler County on the decline while Warren County remained relatively steady and in the state’s top 10 best in outcomes.

Butler County dropped four spots to 56 out of 88 counties in the most recent rankings, while Warren County dipped just one spot from fifth to sixth, according to a County Health Rankings report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute

The rankings, which are being released to the public today, are "an easy-to-use snapshot" of the health of nearly every county in the nation, according to Karen Odegaard, action learning coach for County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, which has ranked county health for the last 10 years.

“What the county health rankings show us is that where we live makes a difference in how well and how long we live,” Odegaard said. “What we can see (from the rankings) is that not everyone has the same opportunity to be healthy where they live.”

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The rankings examine a variety of factors that influence health, including access to healthy food, quality of health care, tobacco use and other such items, but it also examines “the important social and economic factors that shape health, like education, income and safe neighborhoods,” she said.

This year, the reports shows that, nationwide, people of low incomes and people of color are disproportionately burdened by high housing costs.

In Butler County, 14 percent of the population have what is considered by the report to be “severe housing problems,” as opposed to 10 percent in Warren County, 15 percent across Ohio and 9 percent in the top U.S. performers.

“They’re often spending more than 50 percent of their incomes on housing,” she said. “That was one of the things that we focused on this year because we know that a safe, secure and affordable place to call home is really a foundation for good health.”

Butler County, which ranked as high as 36th in 2015, has slipped since then because of a variety of factors.

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One major contributor is the share of adult obesity. In Butler County, adult obesity is at 33 percent, an uptick of 1 percent compared to last year and 3 percent compared to three years ago. In Warren County, adult obesity is at 30 percent, a drop of 1 percent compared to last year but an uptick of 1 percent compared to 2016.

Adult smoking was at 20 percent in Butler County and 16 percent in Warren County, statistics less than than the 23 percent seen statewide but higher than the 14 percent in top U.S. performers.

Both Butler and Warren counties are getting worse when it comes to premature deaths, which are calculated by subtracting a person’s age at the time of death from the age of 75.

That, she said, could be one contributing factor to the Butler County’s slide in the rankings.

In Butler County, the top five unusual leading causes of death for those under the age of 75 were cancer, accidents, diseases of heart, chronic lower respiratory diseases and diabetes mellitus. Warren County had the same top four leading causes of death for that age range but suicide placed in the fifth spot.

Areas of strength include an uninsured rate of 6 percent in Butler County and 5 percent in Warren County. Ohio’s uninsured rate is 5 percent, and the top-ranked U.S. communities come in at 6 percent.

Another bright side of the report for Butler and Warren counties is that they ranked 43rd and 2nd, respectively, when it comes to health factors, which are considered “tomorrow’s health,” and consist of influencers that drive how long and how well each person will live, Odegaard said.

“When I see a health factors ranking that’s better than a health outcomes ranking, that tells that there are some good things happening,” she said.

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The most important thing is that data be examined and acted upon by communities to find solutions that ensure that “everyone has the opportunity to live their healthiest life,” no matter where they live, how much they make or what color their skin is, Odegaard said.

To explore the rankings for counties across Ohio and the nation, visit www.countyhealthrankings.org.

“Anybody can come in and take a look at that data and really try to think about what can they impact in their daily life and how can they partner with others,” she said.