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Ohio Ranks 39th In Country For Overall Health, Mostly Due To Drug Deaths

Naloxone is an antidote that can help reverse drug overdoses.
John Minchillo
Associated Press
Naloxone is an antidote that can help reverse drug overdoses. Ohio is seeing a record-high rate of deaths from overdoses.

Ohio is the 12th unhealthiest state in the nation, according to the America's Health Rankings Annual Report released this week by the United Health Foundation. 

Dr. Christopher Kleather, medical director of UnitedHealthcare of Ohio, says a big reason for Ohio's low rank is the high rate of drug deaths. In 2016, Ohio saw a record 4,050 deaths from overdoses.

"In particular the opioid death problem seems to be the biggest issue and the most difficult to tackle at this time," he says.

The reportfound that the drug death rate has never been higher in America as a whole. Kleather says a multi-prong solution is necessary to curb the crisis.

"The opioid drug problem here in Ohio, we're taking a system-wide approach on it," he says. "To look at everything from prevention, to intervention, and the treatment."

A healthier Ohio is going to require collaboration and work from both the health care system and Ohio individuals, Kleather says.

"One of the most important factors we need to consider is how we get our population in to see their primary care doctor and get preventive treatment and wellness screenings," Kleather says. "We're looking at all kinds of ways to incentivize not only our membership to go in and see their primary care doctor, but also incentivizing the primary care doctors to make sure they're assisting in reaching out to our membership."

Kleather mentions cardiovascular problems that arise from smoking and obesity as another big factor in Ohio's low rank.

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.