OTSEGO COUNTY - New data released in 2014 show that Health Behaviors in Otsego County now rank the county as 36th out of Michigan's 82 reporting counties, rising from 51st place in 2013. These behaviors include alcohol and drug use, diet and exercise, sexual activity and tobacco use. Meanwhile, Otsego's Health Outcomes, those factors that measure the quality and length of the life of its residents, declined slightly from last year.
The County Health Rankings, now in their fifth year, are the product of a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. They measure the health of nearly all counties in the nation and rank them within states. Rankings are compiled using county-level measures from a variety of national and state data sources.
Linda Yaroch, Health Officer for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, encourages anyone with a stake in Otsego County's wellbeing to visit the County Health Rankings website, www.countyhealthrankings.org. The site provides about 30 different measures including length of life, quality of life, health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment. The site also allows visitors to compare each county against state and national rankings, and against its own rankings from previous years. Rankings include several new health indicators for 2014, such as access to mental health providers, access to exercise opportunities and a food environment index. Yaroch added that one must be careful to understand differences in rankings between years, as there may be big changes in a county's rank simply because different measurements are being used.
"County Health Rankings are only meaningful if the community views them as a call to action," Yaroch said, citing the County Health Roadmaps that are also found on the countyhealthrankings.org website. "The Roadmaps provide action steps for public health agencies, businesses, educators, philanthropists, investors, nonprofits, local government and healthcare providers to improve the overall health of their communities. All members of the community affect, and are affected by, these rankings."
The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For more information, visit www.nwhealth.org or call (800) 432-4121.