The county is ranked No. 1 in the state on the fifth annual County Health Rankings.
In addition, the Holland-Grand Haven metropolitan statistical area — which is Ottawa County — received the highest ranking in the Gallup and Healthways Well-Being Index for physical health and access to basic necessities.
Karl Lowenberg of West Olive, who works out for more than an hour three times a week at the Tri-Cities Family YMCA, said he is amazed that Ottawa is first out of the 82 Michigan counties graded on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings, which looks at 29 factors that impact health, unemployment, access to healthy foods and physical inactivity.
“That was a real pleasant surprise,” he said.
Lowenberg, 75, said he’s always done something to stay in shape because it’s “extremely important” to him — “for the good health reasons,” he said.
The county rankings looked at health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, physical environment, and quality of life. This year’s report also took into account housing, transportation, food environment, mental health, injury-related deaths and exercise opportunities.
Keweenaw County in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is not included in the report.
Kristina Wieghmink, spokeswoman for the Ottawa County Department of Public Health, attributes the high rankings to community collaboration and the invested interest of individuals and numerous health partners working together to address social and health inequalities.
Wieghmink said the health department and several community health partners use the annual report to understand what factors have influenced good health. Those factors include smoking, employment, high school graduation rates, access to health care and physical inactivity.
Despite the top ranking in the state, there’s room to improve. Ottawa County ranked seventh for clinical care and 40th for physical environment.
Wieghmink said one of the health department’s goals is to help increase access to health care and health insurance coverage, because greater access would lead to better opportunities for individuals and families to make activity, nutrition and preventative care a priority.
Meanwhile, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index used data in 2012 and 2013 from 189 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas looking at life evaluation, work environment, emotional health, physical health, access to basic necessities and healthy behaviors to score its rankings. It is calculated on a 1 to 100 scale, with 100 being the ideal score.
The Holland-Grand Haven area received a 80.9 score in physical health and 89.7 for basic access.
Ottawa County was the only area to receive a top ranking in more than one category: physical health and access to basic necessities. The report indicated lower ratings in work environment and life evaluation kept the area out of the overall top 10.
Holland-Grand Haven also took the top spot of the country’s metro areas as a place that’s safe to walk at night. Nearly 86 percent of its surveyed residents indicated they feel safe walking alone at night.
Joy Gaasch, president of the local Chamber of Commerce, said the rankings help market the community to visitors, as well as people and businesses looking to relocate to the area.
Gaasch said the ranking is refreshing, and it’s something to celebrate and share.
“It really speaks well to the quality of life in our community,” she said.
CLICK HERE for the 2014 Michigan County Health Rankings report.
CLICK HERE for the 2014 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.