President’s Message – September 19, 2014
In June, Lois Hall and I met withSenator Sherrod Brown’s staff in Washington, D.C. with our primary concern being Ohio’s lowhealth outcomes ratings relative to other states and the corresponding lowfederal funding levels. Senator Brownshared our concern and arranged to bring Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of CDC toOhio to meet with us. We felt fortunateto have had Dr. Frieden join us since he had just returned from Africa due tothe Ebola crisis.
This meeting which was initiallyscheduled for Friday, September 5 in Columbus was very well attended by Ohiopublic health leaders from across the state. In attendance were: Kathy Boylan(Euclid City/Lorain City Health Commissioner), Barbara Gunning (Toledo/LucasCounty Assistant Director), Krista Wasowski (Medina County HealthCommissioner), Wally Burden (Pike County Health Commissioner), Tonya Block(Summit County Health Department), Dr. Teresa Long (Columbus City HealthCommissioner), Terry Allan (Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner), and ToniParilla (Cleveland City Health Commissioner). Attending by phone were Jim Gross (Dayton/Montgomery County HealthCommissioner) and Alex Jones (Union County Director of Nursing and OPHA NursingChair).
The meeting primarily focused on twoagenda items: infant mortality andopiate/drug abuse. Dr. Long led thediscussion on infant mortality, citing the high rate of infant mortality inOhio, particularly among African Americans. There was discussion about reducing pre-term births and reducingmaternal risk factors for infant mortality such as smoking and drug use. Effective interventions, such as the HUBmodel – first used in Senator Brown’s hometown of Mansfield, Ohio – which usescommunity health workers to identify women at risk and connect them to care,were also mentioned. Terry Allan andWally Burden led the discussion on opiate/drug abuse and shared the data withDr. Frieden showing that although there was a decrease in prescription opioiddeaths from 2011 to 2012, there has been a continued and dramatic rise inheroin deaths. The 50 minute meeting flowedwell with everyone participating and very rich discussion. Senator Brown and Dr. Frieden came to learnmore about public health issues in Ohio and left with a lot of information totake back to Washington and Atlanta.
In addition to the discussion on infantmortality and opiate/drug abuse, there was a discussion on funding and fiscalintermediaries. Dr. Frieden explainedthat CDC funding is driven by several factors and the per capita disparity isnot as great as it appears. One factoris need. For example, HIV incidence inOhio is not as severe as in other states, therefore per capita funding is notas great in this area. Another factor isstate size. Because there are basefunding levels per program, smaller states tend to do better in per capitafunding. Dr. Frieden mentioned that CDCwas putting the finishing touches on the final grant awards for Fiscal Year2014 and is working to notify applicants as soon as possible about finalfunding decisions for each. Additionalinformation on Dr. Frieden’s points about per capita funding is available inthe “Aboutthe Data” document within the CDC GrantFunding Profiles tool. The concept of a public health institute withthe ability to apply for federal funding when the state agency does not applyfor these funds was discussed. Dr.Frieden expressed that he supported the concept of fiscal intermediaries andencouraged our pursuit of a public health institute for this purpose.
To recap, a lot of information wasprovided to Dr. Frieden and Senator Brown in the time allotted. They both were genuinely interested to hearour concerns and to help us address them. I am grateful that Senator Brown and Dr. Frieden took the time out oftheir busy schedules to help us. Weappreciated Dr. Frieden’s suggestion, and plan to follow up with CDC’s Officefor State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support for additional dialogue on how to bestposition Ohio to further our public health goals.