New health data released

U.P. data eyes care access, pandemic impact

HANCOCK — The Western Upper Peninsula District Health Department, located on Depot Street, announced last week the release of the Upper Peninsula Community Health Needs Assessment 2021.

The 458-page book, available on-line to the general public, includes health survey results; data on demographics, access to care, health across the lifespan, behavioral health and substance abuse; rankings of community health issues; and 15 county-level data summaries.

The newly published CHNA is the culmination of an 18-month project led by local health departments in collaboration with hospitals, behavioral health agencies and health foundations. It includes data on health across the lifespan, access to care, community issues like drug abuse, and results from an extensive health survey conducted last August. Stakeholders will use the data to inform residents, identify priorities for community health improvement, and measure changes over time.

The assessment’s key findings, outlined in its executive summary, include:

• A first look at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

• The impact of the region’s aging population on current and future healthcare needs;

• The importance of prevention – reducing tobacco use, maintaining a healthy body weight, and not drinking to excess – in reducing rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases;

• Disparities in health access, behaviors and outcomes for residents of various income and education levels;

• Improvements in health insurance coverage over the past few years, countered by persistent widespread health professional shortages for primary care, dental care, and behavioral health services; and

• Residents’ concerns about issues including the high cost of health care, economic conditions, drug use, and shortage of mental health programs and services, among many community health issues.

Kate Beer, the Western U.P. Health Department health officer, said in the release that the Community Health Needs Assessment, along with health improvement planning are core functions of public health.

“The findings in this report will help healthcare providers and communities address the health needs of people across the region,” said Beer.

Beer said the unique partnership of 42 organizations serving the U.P. continues to make it possible to conduct a comprehensive regional assessment of this scope.

The report also highlights emerging health issues, including the continued opioid epidemic and increased use of marijuana, and the expanding risk of tick-borne illness such as Lyme disease and anaplasmosis.

“This is a very robust assessment, with county-level data on topics from pregnancy and births to leading causes of death,” said Beer. “With survey data from more than 3,500 U.P. residents, we have a wealth of information on general health status and prevalence of chronic diseases; health behaviors like diet, exercise, and alcohol, tobacco and drug use; rates for accessing preventive care like checkups, dental visits, immunizations and cancer screenings; and rankings as to the relative importance of 16 broad health issues, based on respondents’ perceptions of their communities.”

The report also addresses Social Deterimants of Health (SDOH) and looks at various counties in addressing them.

Historically, when addressing community health, the focus has been on specific diseases, prevention measures, specific programs, and personal health behaviors, the assessment states. As important as these factors are to health outcomes, attention has increasingly been shifted towards the environmental conditions in which people live, work, and go to school that contribute to our quality of life and health outcomes. These “Social Determinants of Health” often explain why some individuals face more difficult challenges in achieving and maintaining good health.

With the exception of Marquette County, median income in each county is below the state median income. With the exceptions of Alger and Houghton Counties, all counties have a higher percentage of household with children 18 years and younger living in poverty than the statewide percentage.

The report states that within the region, low-income adults, and those with lower levels of education, report poorer physical and mental health, higher rates of disease and disability, and lower rates for annual physical exams and appropriately timed cancer screenings. Inequalities of socioeconomic status contribute to disparities in access to services, and socioeconomic factors (income and education) strongly correlate with health status.

The previous iteration of Upper Peninsula Community Health Issues Priorities Survey (UPCHIPS) in 2017 demonstrated that Upper Peninsula residents intuitively understand that a wide variety of issues impact their health and the health of their community. The top four priority issues identified from among 16 listed concerns were:

• Health insurance is expensive or has high costs for co-pays and deductibles;

• Drug abuse;

• Lack of health insurance;

• Unemployment, wages, and economic conditions.

Three years later, in 2021, UPCHIPS, the same 16 priority items were listed for consideration and the top four priority

issues (in order of frequency) were:

• Health insurance is expensive or has high costs for co-pays and deductibles;

• Unemployment, wages, and economic conditions;

• Drug use;

• Shortage of mental health programs and services, or lack of affordable mental health care.

On Aug. 13, 2021, the Marquette County Health Department issued a release stating that Health surveys would be mailed that week to randomly selected households across the Upper Peninsula as part of a community health needs assessment.

“This community health needs assessment is a collaborative effort involving 32 local and regional healthcare partners, including local health departments, hospitals, clinics, behavioral health agencies, and health foundations,” the release said.

“The purpose of this survey is to improve services through the assessment of current health needs of residents of the Upper Peninsula. Data from this community health needs assessment will be available at a county and regional level and will be used to target health care and public health services and program efforts towards the areas of greatest need within the community.”

The 458-page report is available at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vMEVxWcSlI5-xMxGvaaS6vMmcrCaLrS-/view


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