A study of the effects of health department consolidation in Ohio by Kent State University and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences found total spending and non-local revenue tend to decrease after consolidation.
"We hope our work will help inform the policy decisions made by public officials at the local and state levels," said John Hoornbeek, Ph.D., director of Kent State's Center for Public Policy and Health and the project's principal investigator.
He said the decrease in non-local revenue "appears to disappear after the first two years," and has a transitional effect of consolidation.
The purpose of the study was to develop evidence regarding the effects of health department consolidation on health department expenditures, revenues and services.
The research team focused its analysis on the 20 health department consolidations that have occurred between 2001 and 2012 in Ohio.
Both statistical analyses of data submitted by local health departments to the Ohio Department of Health and interviews with key health department personnel involved in the consolidations contributed to the report's findings.
While the study did not measure services directly, Hoornbeek said "those involved in the process often perceived improvements there."
The 20-department study is separate from another study involving the three health departments in Portage County.
That two-year study was announced in February to explore how cross-jurisdictional sharing of programs, services and resources by health departments can enable greater protection and promotion of public health.
Of the larger study, "Many of those we interviewed perceived that benefits from consolidation accrue over time," said Josh Filla, an outreach coordinator with Kent State's Center for Public Policy and Health and a co-author of the study. "The vast majority of those we interviewed -- almost 90 percent -- said that their consolidation was a 'good idea.'"
"We've tried to provide answers to some of the questions local health officials hear frequently from township and municipal officials about the costs and benefits of consolidating their health departments," said study co-author Matthew Stefanak, who served for 25 years as a county health commissioner in Ohio.
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