Toledo, county seat of Lucas County, is a sprawling city in northwest Ohio whose proximity to the Great Lakes bolstered its manufacturing might in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Toledo’s population peaked in 1965 with 392,000 residents, who were drawn to jobs in manufacturing companies, automotive factories, strong cultural institutions, and a local public research university. But like many Rust Belt cities, Toledo’s fortunes—and population—declined as U.S. manufacturing began to falter in the 1970s. Causes for the decline were job automation and the exit of companies to non-union states or overseas.
Of the seven Fortune 500 manufacturing companies that called Toledo home in the early 1980s, just one, Owens Corning, remains today. General Motors continues to operate a plant in Toledo, as does Jeep-Chrysler, although many auto supply manufacturers have departed. Decades of an unpredictable, generally declining economy have taken their toll on the health and social well-being of Toledo residents. Residents struggle with depressed household incomes, a high prevalence of chronic disease risk factors, high rates of infant mortality, and an emerging opioid crisis. Federal health agencies, community groups, and other stakeholders are collaborating to address these challenges through initiatives that address policy, systems, and environmental change strategies to shape and sustain improvements in population health and well-being.