PDT Staff Writer
Former State Representative Todd Book, who, most recently, has been Scioto County Economic Development director, has accepted the chairmanship of the Economic Development Committee of the Scioto County Health Coalition. The 2013 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, A Healthier Nation, County by County, ranks Scioto County as Ohio’s unhealthiest county. The annual report, released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, examines every county in the United States and ranks them on a state level based on health outcomes and factors. Scioto County ranks 88th out of the 88 counties in Ohio for health outcomes and health factors.
“What we’re really hoping for the Economic Development Committee to do, especially under Tood Book, is be a place where all the different economic development groups can meet and hand a report out on what they are doing individually, so we can work together, move forward and prevent duplication of efforts,” County Health Commissioner Chris Smith said. “I know Main Street (Portsmouth) is committed to being there, the city, the mayor, David Malone, is always there and there’s (First Ward Councilman) Kevin Johnson, (Director of Engineering) Crystal Weghorst, (Community Development Director) Tracy Shearer, and now we have county which will always be there, because we will have Scioto County government and Scioto County Port Authority represented by Todd Book.”
Smith said health and employment impact one another.
“Our county health rankings are obviously still at the bottom,” Smith said. “We know that county health rankings are directly tied to economic development, so the most important thing we can do is increase jobs in the area. And we’re really finding a lot of links between a healthy community and attracting more jobs.”
Smith said companies are less likely to want to locate in an area where health rankings are at the bottom.
“Also, if our citizens are not healthy enough to work, they can’t pass a drug test, for instance,” Smith said. “And the other problem is that poor health conditions lead to higher insurance costs to the employer.”
Smith cites the recent discussion of the creation of a bike path as a step in the positive direction to help improve the health of area residents.
The Shawnee Recreation Trail Committee Inc., is working toward having a new bicycle and pedestrian trail on an existing county right-of-way originating near Earl Thomas Conley Park, in West Portsmouth. The newly-formed committee is made up of bicycling and walking enthusiasts, and the initial phase of the trail will run approximately 2.6 miles along the old Ohio River Road, from U.S. 52 to the Second Street bridge in Portsmouth.
“We’re really wanting to move forward on the bike path issue,” Smith said. “Wellness groups are interested in bike paths for health, and, of course, the economic development community is interested in making the community better, and also in attracting people who want to live here. A bike path is a good example of how you get a lot of cross-over.”
Smith said the committee also want to bring more participation by the village of New Boston into the program.
“They’ve been to some meetings, but they are one of the economic groups we want to make sure is involved,” Smith said. “Zach McCoy is representing the Holiday Inn breakfast group. Jim Morgan, the Jedi group. John Washburn is going to be representing Shawnee State University. Sean Boldman is representing the Rotary Club, Peggy Rice - (Portsmouth) Metropilitan Housing. (Sarah Surina) The new director of Main Street Portsmouth will all be participating.”
Smith said the committee is also interested in having the Land Reutilization Program move out to the county level.
“The program is working very well in the city, and I would love to see it move county-wide,” Smith said. “So obviously having the county, with Todd Book, involved in the Health Coalition will be a big help.”
A call to Book on Monday went unreturned.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.