Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 6, 2013

Munson releases regional health report

By Anne Stanton
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A sweeping health survey offers a penetrating look at the region’s obesity rates, smoking habits, mortality rates, and access to health care.

Thirty-five health issues are detailed in the report, and next year Munson Medical Center will focus on four: obesity, diabetes, maternal smoking and access to care, said Diane Butler, Munson Medical Center’s manager of Community Health.

“We needed to focus on the largest health issues we could do something about,” she said. “... (W)hat we could get our arms around and work on with our community.”

Butler, who spearheaded the 2013 Community Health Needs Assessment, collaborated with four health departments. They enlisted the help of a host of agencies, nonprofits, health providers, as well as focus groups and select residents.

A surprising statistic, she said, was the number of maternal smokers. Close to 42 percent of expectant mothers smoked during pregnancy in Kalkaska County. Even in Leelanau County, which had the lowest rate, 19.5 percent of expectant moms smoked.

The rising rate of obesity — more than two out of three area adults are overweight or obese — didn't surprise Butler, who added Type II diabetes is closely linked to thickening waistlines.

“No matter how you cut it, nationally, statewide, countywide, it’s a universal problem in the United States,” Butler said.

In the area of behavioral health, a “big take-away” was that mildly to moderately depressed people are falling between the cracks, Butler said.

“Some can’t afford treatment, and there’s not always enough health care providers out there,” she said. “A lot go to family practice doctors who are inundated with these patients. It’s big. And it’s big for pediatricians to handle.”

Children and adolescents who need inpatient psychiatric care must either go to Grand Rapids or Ann Arbor hospitals. Perinatal care also is an issue, Butler said.

The survey found a strong Medicaid safety net for children and pregnant women, but insurance is a challenge for most impoverished adults, said Mary Beth Mary Morrison, Munson’s vice president of planning and operations improvement.

"Some people think Medicaid is for people of low incomes, but it’s not broadly true," she said.

The report included reams of secondary data such as income, graduation rates, and census data. For example, the teen birth rate of Antrim County — girls ages 15 to 19 accounted for 44.6 births out of 1,000 -- is more than twice that of Leelanau County's rate of 19.8.

“Grant writers will find this data extremely helpful,” Morrison said. “They can spend time developing their concept instead of chasing the numbers.”

Population trends reflect an aging population. In 1990, 45 percent of the region’s residents were 15 to 44 years old. In 2010, that percentage dropped below 35 percent. Meanwhile, adults between the ages of 45 and 64 almost doubled to 30 percent.

"We know that the regional population growth has slowed dramatically, therefore, we are aging in place," Morrison said. "... (T)he implication is we'll consume and need more and slightly different health care resources."

Butler plans to present a strategy on how to address health issues to the Munson's board of directors by June 30. She stressed this is a collaborative, community effort.

“We have been a society of sick care,” she said. “This is a shift toward prevention and it will take time. And personal accountability is a big piece of it.”

To see the report, go to