MOUNT VERNON — With the visit of the state health department director, Dr. Alvin Jackson, on Friday, a greater understanding was created between state and local health officials. Jackson spoke with the Knox County Health Department Board about Gov. Stickland’s Turnaround Ohio plan.
“Since I have been appointed by the governor, I have made it a mission of mine to visit every local health department in the state. ... Also I want to share with you some of the initiatives that we are doing at the state level,” said Jackson.
“We all understand that in our state and nation we are having some of the toughest economic times since the Great Depression, and during these challenging times it does have a negative impact on health,” he said. “And sometimes during a crisis, it shows us our opportunities that we might not see otherwise.”
According to the Turnaround Ohio plan, 1.3 million people in Ohio are uninsured; many of those are working full time. Stickland believes the state plays a major role in strengthening the health care system and reducing the cost of health care coverage.
Included in the Turnaround Ohio plan is the establishment of the Healthy Ohio initiative, an initiative to identify the cost of health and social services cost, to focus on prevention for those Ohioans most at risk by using early intervention to improve and change health issues.
“We have a whole department at the Ohio Department of Health looking at health promotion and disease prevention,” said Jackson. “We need to focus on those behavioral issues to take us back to prevention.”
Health issues of infant mortality, obesity, pregnancy, diabetes, coronary artery disease and hypertension are the focus as state health officials concentrate on preventive measures.
“If we look at leading causes of death, coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, in Ohio, and in Knox County,” said Jackson. “When I was looking at your infant mortality rate, I was excited to see that Knox County has a lower than state average in infant mortality, but the state of Ohio has a higher infant mortality rate than the nation.”
Healthy Ohio, he said, focuses on dealing with those challenges.
“Another key thing that we are working on at the state level is an early childhood initiative, so that we can focus on kids very early,” he said. “New research is showing that children who are more exposed to what we call toxic stress earlier can have an impact on their brain development.
“Infant mortality is a large issue. The governor has asked us to start an infant mortality task force and we are doing that right now. We will be making recommendations to the governor on how we may deal with these challenges,” said Jackson.
In conjunction with Healthy Ohio, the Ohio Department of Health has started a center for health statistics that will have health data and information from around Ohio.
“[The center for Health Statistics and Informatics] is a one-stop shop for health data and information,” he said. “We are staffed with people that collect the data and those that interpret, and then we have a way of dissimilating.”
He explained that with the new data base, information can be collected from all over Ohio.
“For example, on the infant mortality rate, we have the vital statistic section at ODH, so for every infant death we know where it is in the state, so we have all of this plotted using coding,” he said. “And then we are looking at where are the hospitals located in relation to infant mortality, where are the health centers, how much money are we spending, and what are those new opportunities as we look at those social determiners.”
Jackson said the data center is there to help everyone provide good data in order to make good decisions.
He said he was grateful for the effort the Knox County Health Department is making in promoting health and prevention.
“I want to thank you for your programs. ... I extremely appreciate the work you are doing in the schools with health promotion, sex education and all those other preventive issues, weight program and environmental health issues,” he said.