Study looks at health of residents

ESCANABA – Delta and Menominee Counties placed in the top third of 82 Michigan counties ranked for overall health outcomes, in a newly released annual report that ranks Michigan’s counties according to various health-related indicators. The report provides a snapshot of each of the nation’s counties and ranks them against other counties within their state. Both counties remained fairly stable in this overall measurement, when compared to last year’s results.

The report addresses not only health care but other subjects such as health behaviors and the social and economic well-being of a county’s residents. The report was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and was completed by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Schoolcraft County ranked lower than both Delta and Menominee counties, ranking 51st for Health Outcomes and 36th for Health Factors. The county ranked highly on physical environment factors – such as air pollution and drinking water violations – at 5th in the state. However the county struggled with social and economic factors including education, unemployment, and the percent of children in poverty ranking 57th.

“From a public health perspective, I appreciate the effort to provide communities with these snapshots of health-related indicators that can be used to supplement local assessments,” said Dr. Terry Frankovich, medical director for Public Health, Delta & Menominee Counties. “The data allows us to look for trends within our own communities.”

Although the rankings allow for comparisons, Frankovich said the individual rankings are less important than looking at the specific data that was collected and whether it accurately reflects what we already know about our communities. “One problem when developing a report of this kind is that in order to measure all counties by the same standards, large national databases are used and it can be tricky using this information to evaluate small, rural populations”, said Frankovich.

A few findings for Delta and Menominee Counties:

– Delta County’s overall rankings in Health Outcomes and Health Factors remained the same or close to the previous year’s results.

– Delta’s Health Outcomes were 24th (unchanged) and Health Factors (health behaviors, clinical care, social/economic factors and physical environment measures) were 13th (10th last year).

– Menominee County’s Health Outcomes ranking was 26th (23rd last year) and its Health Factors came in at 52nd (41th last year).

– Areas where Delta County fared better than the state included: access to exercise opportunities, lower alcohol-impaired driving deaths, lower teen births, fewer preventable hospital stays and better health screening rates. Areas that fared worse than the state overall included: measures for smoking, access to healthy foods and number of mental health, dental and medical providers.

– In Menominee, the ratings for health factors have declined annually since 2010 when Menominee ranked 20th (52nd this year). Part of the reason is that Menominee is perceived as having far fewer physicians per population than many other counties. However, the report does not take into account that many individuals in Menominee County access care in Wisconsin.

– Data does suggest that in Menominee County preventable hospital stays have increased, high school graduation rates have decreased and the number of children in single parent homes has increased.

– Both Delta and Menominee Counties scored very well in rankings on the Physical Environment at 11 and 10 respectively.

Issues of tobacco use, obesity, physical inactivity and alcohol use continue to be problems across counties, and the state as a whole, according to Frankovich. They contribute enormously to the preventable chronic disease burden that will have an impact on our local population for years to come. These risk factors, among others, have a direct link to chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Frankovich said, “One of the purposes of the rankings is to draw people’s attention and motivate them to change. Not only can individuals change their own behavior they can also help to change the community they live in by supporting healthy home, school and community environments for all of our children and residents.” She also notes that Public Health, Delta & Menominee Counties will be conducting a comprehensive local community health assessment this year which should provide a more localized insight into the community’s needs.