"The rankings give us a very broad view of how we compare to other counties, according to various health outcomes and factors," Ottawa County Health Officer Lisa Stefanovsky said. "We are pleased to see Ottawa County, again, near the top of the list. We do, however, view these results with cautious optimism. We know that there is always room for improvement."
Ottawa County was ranked first in the state last year and second in 2010.
The rankings consider factors within four categories: health behavior, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment.
Ottawa County Health Department spokeswoman Shannon Felgner said the report gives a broad overview of where to address certain health-related issues.
“This is another tool we put in our toolbox, and look at our needs and assess where we need to make improvements,” she said.
One of the areas that Felgner noted could use improvement is in the physical environment category.
“One thing that has happened and seems to be consistent in these surveys is the physical environment,” she said. “(The county) doesn’t fare as well as other areas.”
The physical environment portion of the survey indicates that 9 percent of the county's population who are low-income do not live close to a grocery store. In addition, 54 percent of all restaurants in Ottawa County are fast-food establishments. There have been eight unhealthy air quality days annually due to ozone, there were four unhealthy days due to particulate matter pollution, and there are nine recreation facilities per 100,000 people.
Ottawa County Commissioner Denny Swartout said he was impressed with how the county continues to rank near the top of the list each year.
“I would like to think some of it has to do with our quality of life and work ethic,” he said, adding that the county’s park millage provides funding for places to exercise and play.
Swartout noted that the ranking in the top two for the past three years also reflects well on work done by Stefanovsky and her staff at the Health Department.
Dean Buntley, CEO/executive director of Tri-Cities Family YMCA, said he believes residents of the county and Grand Haven area care about their health. He said people from young children and families to baby boomers and senior citizens are utilizing the YMCA's offerings.
“As people are starting to realize, health isn’t just going out for a walk everyday," Buntley said. "You’ve got to lift weights and keep strong muscles, too. It is kind of fun to see classes with 70 to 80 year olds lifting weights and stretching with bands.”
Across the nation, some factors that influence health — such as smoking, availability of primary care physicians and social support — show highs and lows across all regions.
Meanwhile, other factors reflect some distinct regional patterns, such as:
— Excessive drinking rates are highest in the northern states.
— Rates of teen births, sexually transmitted infections and children in poverty are highest across the southern states.
— Unemployment rates are lowest in the Northeast, Midwest and Central Plains states.
— Motor vehicle crash deaths are lowest in the Northeast and upper Midwest states.