Providing for the health of our region outside of our hospital walls remains something we at Munson Healthcare take very seriously.

We conduct a Community Health Needs Assessment every three years to look at the needs of the residents we serve across northern Michigan. Our latest assessment, called MiThrive, represents an extensive effort across the region to understand core needs in light of past improvement efforts.

One thing is certain, no one organization can be the sole solution for the health-related challenges that exist.

The 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment differs from our 2016 assessment in that it covers a greater geographic area and features more engaged partners and collaborations. The process lasted 18 months, involved 154 partners, encompassed extensive surveys of residents and organizations in 31 northern Michigan counties, and an examination of secondary data.

The result is that we have honed our priorities to two most-important findings – mental health/substance abuse, and basic needs of living.

These needs across the region may look a little different in each community, but these priorities are something we can all agree are critical to creating a better future for both residents and visitors to northern Michigan.

Taking a regional approach to the assessment helps us maximize resources, understand local and regional patterns, strengthens our partnerships, and aligns priorities and strategies for the greatest impact on community health.

Our next step will be to work with our partners across the region to create community health improvement plans. MiThrive is a collaboration and solutions will include opportunities for organizations throughout northern Michigan communities to contribute toward goals and solutions that make sense.

For the counties served by Munson Medical Center, care needs associated with mental health/substance abuse continue to grow.

In Traverse City, the hospital’s collaboration with Pine Rest Behavioral Health Solutions focuses on improving access to care. And this past year, Munson Medical Center Behavioral Health outpatient services was awarded a $1.5 million three-year state grant for Opioid Use Disorder Treatment.

Munson Medical Center also was recently named by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as one of two hospitals in the state to receive funding for implementation of medication-assisted treatment in the Emergency Department.

Our ongoing challenges in the Grand Traverse region include higher numbers of reported depression among teens, binge drinking, smoking, Hepatitis C rates associated with injection drug use, and more.

Community organizations surveyed perceive growing health concerns as the legalization of marijuana, the opioid crisis, drug use, vaping and mental illness.

Basic needs of living also remain a crucial issue for the region. These needs are things such as good nutrition, housing and safe neighborhoods. More than one-third of home renters in the region spend more than 35 percent of their income on housing. One in seven children did not have consistent access to enough food during the past year.

Studies show that nutrition education helps lead to improved diet and weight in families that may be struggling with food-related health concerns. And in households where heating is a problem or the roof leaks, residents are put at greater risk to health issues such as mold – which can trigger asthma. Fixing a roof or an appliance can help.

Safe neighborhoods allow for physical activity and exercise – in some cases repairing or adding sidewalks and street lights may become the solution that allows for a sense of security.

We thank all of those who have been involved in the MiThrive assessment effort and look forward to working with those joining in this long-term effort to develop beneficial solutions to health needs in the region.

Read more about the Community Health Needs Assessment and the specific reports for Munson Healthcare hospitals at munsonhealthcare.org/chna.

Ed Ness is president and chief executive officer of Munson Healthcare.