Focus and Health Care

Michigan has become sicker over the past year

Obesity, smoking and fewer immunizations are seen as factors.

January 5, 2013
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Michigan has become sicker over the past year
Fewer immunizations, smoking and a skyrocketing obesity rate are some of the factors that are contributing to the population's diminishing health, according to a report from America's Health Ranking. ©iStockphoto.com/jeangill
According to a national ranking, Michigan isn’t as healthy as it was a year ago.

A ranking of the country’s 50 states by United Health Foundation, part of UnitedHealthcare, put Michigan as the 37th healthiest in 2012 — down from 33rd in 2011. Much of the state’s fall in the 23rd edition of America’s Health Rankings was due to a high prevalence of obesity and smoking, and low immunization coverage.

Although it’s likely a coincidence, the U.S. Census Bureau also has ranked Michigan as 37th nationwide in average personal income.

“America’s Health Rankings from United Health Foundation is an incredibly valuable tool for us to clearly understand health trends facing us as a nation and here in Michigan,” said Richard Gajdowski, medical director of UnitedHealthcare of Michigan, in a statement.

“By identifying the key opportunities we face as a state, we can pursue innovative solutions to those opportunities,” he added.

The rankings, which were released in mid-December, found 2.37 million adults in the state were obese and 758,000 adults had diabetes. The percentage of diabetics in Michigan came to 9 percent of the total population in 2012. Back in 1996, only 5 percent of Michiganders had the disease, according to data in the rankings. About 10 percent of all Americans are diabetic.

In 1990, 14 percent of the state’s adult population was considered obese. Last year, that number was 30 percent — more than double the figure 22 years earlier.

“In Michigan, obesity is more prevalent among non-Hispanic blacks, at 42.1 percent, than non-Hispanic whites, at 29.2 percent,” read the report. Both percentages, though, exceed the national average of 28 percent.

As for the immunization rate, the rankings reported that, up until recently, almost 93 percent of the state’s children ages 19-35 months had been immunized against preventable diseases. That number now has fallen to 87 percent.

“In the past 10 years, the percentage of children in poverty increased from 12.4 percent to 22.7 percent of persons under age 16,” read the report.

Although smoking played a primary role in the state’s lower ranking, the number of smokers in Michigan has fallen quite dramatically since 1990, when 35 percent of the population smoked. The rankings said that number has dropped by a third to 22 percent in 2012.

health care smoking
© iStockphoto.com/ ruzanna

On the flip side, the United Health Foundation’s rankings reported that the state’s low prevalence of a sedentary lifestyle, low occupational fatalities rate and low rate of an uninsured population were Michigan’s health strengths.

The rankings found that 14 percent of Michiganders were uninsured in 2012, double the 7 percent that didn’t have a health policy in 1990. As one of the state’s strengths, that finding may be dubious at best, or a sign of how things are in the country. Even with the uninsured doubling over that period, Michigan still was ranked No. 14 in having the most people insured.

Seeing the ranking of the number of Michiganders who live a sedentary lifestyle as a health strength is largely relative. “Although Michigan has one of the lower rates of sedentary lifestyle in the U.S., more than 1.7 million adults live a sedentary lifestyle and almost 2.4 million adults are obese,” read the report. As a nation, sedentary behavior was found in 26 percent of adults.

“While we celebrate the improvements our state has made in a variety of areas, we still have a long way to go to reverse the direction of many health trends. The good news is there are programs and initiatives underway in Michigan that can benefit those looking to make positive, healthy changes to their way of life,” said Gajdowski.

The rankings found Vermont residents to be the healthiest for the sixth consecutive year. Mississippi and Louisiana, two of the nation’s poorest states, tied as being the unhealthiest states.

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