To examine levels of expenditure and needed investment in public health at the local level in the state of Ohio pre–COVID-19.
Using detailed financial reporting from fiscal year (FY) 2018 from Ohio's local health departments (LHDs), we characterize spending by Foundational Public Health Services (FPHS). We also constructed estimates of the gap in public health spending in the state using self-reported gaps in service provision and a microsimulation approach. Data were collected between January and June 2019 and analyzed between June and September 2019.
Eighty-four of the 113 LHDs in the state of Ohio covering a population of almost 9 million Ohioans.
In FY2018, Ohio LHDs spent an average of $37 per capita on protecting and promoting the public's health. Approximately one-third of this investment supported the Foundational Areas (communicable disease control; chronic disease and injury prevention; environmental public health; maternal, child, and family health; and access to and linkages with health care). Another third supported the Foundational Capabilities, that is, the crosscutting skills and capacities needed to support all LHD activities. The remaining third supported programs and activities that are responsive to local needs and vary from community to community. To fully meet identified LHD needs in the state pre–COVID-19, Ohio would require an additional annual investment of $20 per capita on top of the current $37 spent per capita, or approximately $240 million for the state.
A better understanding of the cost and value of public health services can educate policy makers so that they can make informed trade-offs when balancing health care, public health, and social services investments. The current environment of COVID-19 may dramatically increase need, making understanding and growing public health investment critical.