Ohio falling short in disease control

From antibiotic-resistant superbugs to salmonella, to the seasonal flu, infectious diseases disrupt lives and communities.
MCT Regional News
Dec 18, 2013

Ohio and Michigan scored poorly in a new report that compares the effectiveness of states in preventing and controlling infectious disease outbreaks.

Ohio received a score of four out of 10 and Michigan a five out of 10 in the report that was released Tuesday by the Washington-based nonprofit Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The report, called Outbreak: Protecting Americans from Infectious Diseases, focuses on 10 benchmarks that the authors determined were key to keeping diseases, such as measles and whooping cough, from spreading.

The report’s indicators were developed in consultation with leading health experts, said Jeffrey Levi, executive director of the Trust for American Health.

“There is growing concern because we are facing challenges that are placing the nation at risk. From antibiotic-resistant superbugs to salmonella, to the seasonal flu, infectious diseases disrupt lives and communities,” he said.

The state has developed a different set of priorities for its public health dollars than those developed by the report’s authors, said Steve Wagner, the Ohio Health Department's prevention division chief.

While not criticizing the report, Mr. Wagner noted that the group behind it changes the metrics used each year to determine whether a state is making the grade.

“I’m not sure where they got the numbers that showed a decrease in our budget. The numbers we gave them showed our budget increased by $600,000,” he said.

Mr. Wagner said Ohio public health officials are focusing resources on “health homes,” which are patient-centered medical homes; decreasing the infant mortality rate; reducing obesity — particularly in children — and tobacco prevention and cessation efforts.

“Before I had this job, I ran preparedness for the agency. I don’t think these measures [in the report] are good indicators of our preparedness,” he said.

“It’s like comparing apples to oranges,” said Dr. David Grossman, Lucas County health commissioner. “You’ve got to be prepared for everything, obviously, but they only focused on one segment so they are setting a different set of benchmarks than we are focusing on in Ohio.”

Mr. Levi said the metrics are achievable.

“That doesn’t mean infectious diseases will run wild in Ohio, it just means that from the outside looking in more resources are needed and the state needs to do more,” he said.

Ohio and Michigan had plenty of company in receiving mediocre rankings. Zero is the lowest possible score; 10 is the highest. Thirty-four states scored a five or lower.

Three states tied for the lowest score, achieving just two out 10: Georgia, Nebraska, and New Jersey. New Hampshire had the highest ranking, with a score of eight out 10.

“The bad news is that we found major gaps in the country’s ability to prevent, control, and treat outbreaks, leaving Americans at an unacceptable level of unnecessary risk,” Mr. Levi said.

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By Marlene Harris-Taylor - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (MCT)

©2013 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)

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