Both Montcalm and Ionia counties received improved rankings this year through the annual County Health Rankings results, which were recently released.
The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation published the annual rankings.
Mid-Michigan District Health Department Health Officer Marcus Cheatham said the main factor that plays into the outcome of the rankings is the economy.
“The economy has a lot to do with health,” said Cheatham, noting the area is starting to see some recovery. “We think that what is happening is there is some recovery from the deep economic downturn the county experienced after the factory closings and housing markets collapsed.”
According to a report by the Mid-Michigan District Health Department analyzing the results for Montcalm County, the county moved up from 34 to 27 for health outcomes and moved up from 62 and 50 in health factors.
The county moved up in health outcomes due to a decrease in preventable deaths, which are deaths that could be prevented if everyone had optimum health.
“I do think that the main reason (for the slight decrease) is the economic recovery,” Cheatham said.
He said after the economic downturn, preventable mortality spiked. However, those trends are starting to reverse now.
The report stated the rankings support the fact that people are doing more to improve their health. Health factors are things that enable people to be healthy or inhibit them from health, according to Cheatham.
“The economy hasn’t improved enough, but it has improved some,” Cheatham said.
He noted the precent of children living in poverty improved from 30 to 27 percent, the unemployment rate improved from 16 to 12 percent and violent crime rate went down from 255 to 236 crimes per 100,000 people.
“If we can keep things moving in the right direction, Montcalm can get its quality of life,” Cheatham said. “One important thing to notice about Montcalm (County) is that we are in the back of the pack when it comes to health factors, the things that provide health, because of the economy. But notice we are in the middle of the pack, and moving up, when it comes to health outcomes.”
Cheatham said Montcalm County still has a lot of community and quality of life.
“We need to hang on to that,” he said.
According to the County Health Rankings, Ionia County maintained the same rank for health outcomes at 26, the count moved up from 39 to 33 in health factors.
The rankings show Ionia County did not have much change from 2012 to 2013 in health outcomes.
Premature deaths only decreased by 146 while morbidity slightly increased in the rankings from 44 to 45.
For health factors, the area saw improvement in areas that resulted in the higher rankings such as the unemployment rate dropping from 12.6 percent to 10 percent.
Although Montcalm and Ionia counties sit next to each other on the map, there are reasons the rankings are not similar, Cheatham said.
Health factors for Montcalm County is ranked 17 spots lower than Ionia County. However, Cheatham said it’s again because of the economy that the counties see huge difference between the two.
“In Ionia, 16 percent of families are poor and the average household income is $46,000,” he said. “In Montcalm County 20 percent are poor and the average household income is only $40,000. More people are uninsured in Montcalm, so healthcare – including getting preventive healthcare – is a challenge in this county.”
The top 10 healthiest counties in Michigan are:
• Grand Traverse
For more information and to see complete health report rankings, visit www.countyhealthrankings.org.