Home Part of States Newsroom
Mental health, care costs top problems for Ohioans in new study


Mental health, care costs top problems for Ohioans in new study

Apr 16, 2024 | 5:00 am ET
By Susan Tebben
Mental health, care costs top problems for Ohioans in new study
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Mental health is one of the top health shortfalls that put Ohio at the low end of state rankings, and racial disparities continue to impact residents, according to new data by a state institute.

In the Health Policy Institute of Ohio’s 2024 Health Value Dashboard, Ohio ranks 44th of the 50 states in “health value,” which the institute defines as “a combination of population health and health care spending metrics.”

“This means that Ohioans live less healthy lives and spend more on health care than people in most other states,” the report stated.

Along with population health and health care spending, the dashboard covers categories like access to care, public health and prevention, the health care system, and social and economic environments.

Among the areas in which Ohio has “greatly worsened” is preventive dental care for children, early stage diagnosis of colon and rectal cancer, and the unmet need for mental health treatment in adults.

One of the groups disproportionately impacted by mental health needs is the LGBTQ+ community in the state. Youth suicide rates are 4.8 times worse for LGBTQ+ Ohioans than for heterosexual/cisgender youth, and suicide attempts are 4.3 times higher for that group as well, according to HPIO data.

Overall, youth mental health in Ohio’s LGBTQ+ community is 2.6 times worse than other youth groups, the research, gathered from federal and state resources, found.

The data comes after legislation recently passed over the governor’s veto to keep minors from receiving gender-affirming care and other bills to regulate bathroom use, for example, still remain active in the Ohio General Assembly.

“Policies and practices that limit access to necessary health care and a lack of protections for Ohioans based on their sexual orientation and gender identity contribute to worse health outcomes for LGBTQ+ people compared to their heterosexual and/or cisgender peers,” the report stated.

Black Ohioans continue to face disparities, according to the research, with treatment in health care environments 13.7 times worse for Black residents due to their race, and Black children receiving “unfair treatment due to race” 9.4 times more than their white peers.

The HPIO researchers found that 189,344 fewer Black Ohioans would experience racism in health care if the state worked to eliminate disparities.

“Examples of policies and systems that contribute to gaps in outcomes include discrimination and unfair treatment in employment and lending, disinvestment in public transportation and public education, and the legacy of redlining and zoning policies,” the HPIO stated in the “equity profiles” that were part of the 2024 dashboard.

Redlining is a method of keeping residents of certain areas from being able to obtain mortgages for homes and other housing options, particularly in areas where people of color live.

Unfair treatment is present in Ohio for other groups as well, with Asian Ohioans’ likelihood of disparate treatment matching the rate of Black residents at 9.4 times more than white residents, and Hispanic/Latino residents seeing 8.5 times more race-based unfair treatment than white communities.

Food insecurity spans many groups, with low-income Ohioans seeing 91.1 times more food insecurity than other income levels, and Black Ohioans seeing 3.5 times worse levels of child food insecurity than white households.

But the report wasn’t entirely bleak. Ohio has “greatly improved” in areas like primary care access, hospital supports for breastfeeding and infant care, early stage diagnosis of female breast cancer, unemployment, and voting rates and registration.

Ohio’s rate of uninsured residents “has dropped significantly over the past decade and is lower than most other states,” HPIO researchers found, though they recommended even more work to bring affordable care within reach of all state residents.

“Many Ohioans are facing substantial out-of-pocket health care expenses, and Ohioans are more likely to seek care in emergency department settings than people in most other states, which can increase costs,” the report stated.

The institute recommended establishment of a study commission to “examine the key contributors to high health care spending, as well as ways to lower costs for consumers and employers,” also urging increases in provider workforce capacity and enhancements in “provider network accuracy and adequacy.”

Other recommendations given by the HPIO included increased food access for Ohioans though the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition programs, along with improved access to mental health services, including Telehealth services and youth peer mentoring programs.