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

The 458-page book, available online 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 health issues in the community; and 15 county-level summaries of data.

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

Key findings of the assessment, summarized in the 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 health needs;

≤ The importance of prevention – reducing tobacco use, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption – in reducing heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases;

≤ Differences in health care access, behaviors and outcomes for residents of different income and education levels;

≤ Improvements in health insurance coverage in recent years, offset by persistent widespread shortages of health workers in primary care, dental care and behavioral health services; and

≤ Residents’ concerns about issues such as the high cost of health care, economic conditions, drug use, and the lack of mental health programs and services, among many community health issues.

Kate Beer, the Western UP Health Department’s health officer, said in the release that assessing community health needs, along with planning for health improvement, are core public health functions.

“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 UP continues to make it possible to conduct a comprehensive regional assessment of this scope.

The report also highlights emerging health issues, including the ongoing opioid epidemic and rising marijuana use, as well as the increasing risk of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease and anaplasmosis.

“This is a very solid assessment, with county-level data covering everything from pregnancy and childbirth to the leading causes of death,” said beer. “With survey data from more than 3,500 UP residents, we have a wealth of information on overall health and the prevalence of chronic diseases; health behaviors such as diet, exercise, and use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs; tariffs for access to preventive care such as health check-ups, dental visits, vaccinations and cancer screening; and rankings of the relative importance of 16 common health issues based on respondents’ perceptions of their communities.”

The report also looks at social determinants of health and looks at different districts in how they are addressed.

Historically, community health care has focused on specific diseases, preventive measures, specific programs and personal health behaviors, the assessment said. As important as these factors are to health, attention has increasingly shifted to the environmental conditions in which people live, work and go to school that contribute to our quality of life and health. This “Social Determinants of Health” often explain why some people face more difficult challenges when it comes to achieving and maintaining good health.

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

The report finds that in the Region, low-income adults and those with a lower level of education report poorer physical and mental health, higher rates of disease and disability, and lower rates of annual physical exams and appropriately timed cancer screening. Inequalities in socioeconomic status contribute to disparities in access to services, and socioeconomic factors (income and education) are strongly correlated with health status.

The previous 2017 repeat of the Upper Peninsula Community Health Issues Priority Survey showed that Upper Peninsula residents intuitively understand that a variety of issues affect their health and the health of their community.

The four key issues identified from the 16 concerns listed were:

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

• substance abuse;

• Lack of health insurance;

• Unemployment, wages and economic conditions.

Three years later, in 2021, UPCHIPS listed the same 16 priority items for consideration, and the top four themes (in order of frequency) were:

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

• Unemployment, wages and economic conditions;

• Drug consumption;

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

On August 13, 2021, the Marquette County Health Department issued a news release stating that health surveys would be sent to randomly selected households in the Upper Peninsula this week as part of an assessment of community health needs.

“This community health needs assessment is a collaborative effort of 32 local and regional health partners, including local health boards, hospitals, clinics, behavioral health agencies and health foundations.” said the publication.

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

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

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