Osceola County health rankings improve

OSCEOLA COUNTY – Health care in Osceola County has improved over the last year, according to rankings issued by the University of Wisconsin Public Heath Institute.

The county moved from a rank of 47 out of 82 last year to rank 36 out of 82 in the report issued April 2.

“The improvement in the rankings … for our region is a clear sign that the work we are collectively doing to improve health status is working,” said Mary Kushion, Central Michigan District Health Department health officer.

The county health rankings were created by the University of Wisconsin Public Health Institute to compare health statistics in the 82 counties in Michigan. Health outcomes such as premature death, low birthweight, and number of poor mental or physical health days.

The rankings are designed to show the level of health in each county, allowing each to find areas to improve in order to make their communities a healthier place to live.

After Clare County was ranked the least healthy county in Michigan in 2010, health officials held a public health summit to engage the community in thinking about the process to increase health in the community. The summit produced  the CMDHD Together We Can! Health Improvement Initiative, a collection of individuals who come together to solve health-related issues in each of the six counties- Arenac, Clare, Gladwin, Isabella, Osceola and Roscommon.

Osceola County’s Together We Can! group is led by Lisa Pope, infection control nurse at Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital. New programs, policies and strategies that led to the increase in ranking this year are directly related to the combined effort through the initiative, Kushion said.

The Osceola County Group recently started the Get Active program, encouraging community members to visit Reed City High School from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. to exercise by walking in the halls.

“By working on the community’s health, just by getting them out and teaching them healthier ways to live and be, we will have positive affect on hypertension, diabetes and obesity in our county,” Pope said.

Angela Russell, associate researcher at the University of Wisconsin said though Osceola County’s health outcomes rank improved, the county’s recorded health factors, including adult obesity, adult smoking and availability of primary care physicians, got worse.

“There is definitely some room for improvement,” Russel said.

The University of Wisconsin Public Health Institute completes the rankings for 48 states in the contiguous United States through reports to the National Center for Health Statistics. The team hopes the annual rankings will inspire local change.

“We want these to be a call to action for leaders across the country,” Russell said. “Where you live matters to your health. Two counties right next to each other may have very different health outcomes.”

For more information about health in the county as well as action steps to improve your health, visit www.countyhealthrankings.org.