Ottawa County ranks 2nd in state for health outcomes

Krystle Wagner • Mar 20, 2019 at 11:00 AM

Ottawa County is one of Michigan’s healthiest communities, according to a new report.

The county ranked second in the state for health outcomes, according to the 2019 report from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. 

Ottawa County was first in health outcomes for the past five years. It was second to Leelanau County in the 2013 report.

This year’s report ranked Leelanau as the healthiest county in Michigan, up from seventh in 2018.

The report was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Released Tuesday, it looks at more than 30 measures and factors that influence health, including access to medical care, education, jobs, housing and income.

“We want people to understand that health is more than health care,” said Karen Odegaard, an associate researcher for the institute.

The full report can be found at www.countyhealthrankings.org.

In addition to providing rankings and showing data sources, the report includes policies and programs that might help improve the measures.

This year’s report also takes a closer look at health and housing. It shows that low-income residents are disproportionately burdened by housing costs, Odegaard said.

About 14 percent of Michigan households spend more than half of their income on housing costs, according to the report. When residents spend more money on rent or a mortgage, Odegaard said that’s less they have to put toward food, medicine, and transportation to school and work.

Odegaard said that a safe, secure and affordable place to call home is a “foundation for good health.”

Counties receive rankings for outcomes and factors. Measures in the rankings include length and quality of life, clinical care, health behaviors, physical environment, and social and economic factors.

Overall, Ottawa County improved or remained the same in 27 of 33 health measures on the report. Two of the health measures, mammography screening and flu vaccinations, have been revised or are new, so there isn’t data from previous years to compare.

Ottawa County did better than or similar to the state in 31 of the measures. The county made improvements in the number of people who are uninsured, the number of primary care physicians and dentists, and air pollution particulate matter.

Children living in a single-parent household is an area for improvement. Although it hasn’t increased in Ottawa County since 2018, it’s risen 29 percent since 2011.

The county met or exceeded just 25 percent of benchmark measures compared to top counties in the country.

“It is sobering that while Ottawa County’s measures meet or exceed almost all those for Michigan, we fail to meet three-fourths of the healthiest counties in the U.S.,” said Marcia Mansaray, senior epidemiologist for the Ottawa County Department of Public Health.

Erica Phelps, fitness and wellness director for the Tri-Cities Family YMCA, said the second-place ranking is “wonderful” and attributes some of it to the access residents have to opportunities to be active indoors and outdoors.

While the county is one of the healthiest in the state, Phelps noted there’s room for improvement.

According to the report, 27 percent of Ottawa County residents are obese and 19 percent are physically inactive. Phelps said people need to be more engaged in the opportunities that are available to them. She said it sometimes comes down to people choosing to move and be active.

“Get out and do what works the best for you, simply because you can and you have the opportunity,” Phelps said.

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