Government, Health Care, and Lakeshore

Ottawa County ranks 2nd in state for health

March 21, 2013
| By Pete Daly |
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Is the government really interested in online dialogue?
Ottawa County offers residents a wide variety of services directly through its website, miOttawa.org.
Ottawa County public health officials are happy with the just-released 2013 County Health Rankings, which puts Ottawa 2nd among the 82 Michigan counties in overall health of its residents.

Kent County came in 16th in the state, behind Allegan County at 11th.

County Health Rankings is a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, and ranks nearly every county in the U.S. using a wide variety of statistics. The information has been used to inspire and support local health improvement initiatives with the help of a “roadmap” that shows where action can be focused.

Comparing just Ottawa and Kent counties on a few of the measures:

  • Ottawa has a premature death rate of 4,734, compared to 5,749 in Kent County. The numbers are years of potential life lost before age 75, per 100,000 population, and are adjusted for the age of the population.
  • In Ottawa County, 6.4 percent of babies are born with low birth weight, compared to 7.5 percent in Kent County.
  • The teen birthrate is 20 out of every 1,000 females aged 15 to 19 in Ottawa; in Kent it is 39.
  • 16 percent of Ottawa adults admit they smoke; in Kent it is 18 percent.
  • In Ottawa, there is one dentist for every 2,128 people. In Kent, it is one for every 1,129.
  • Ottawa has one primary care doctor for every 1,772 people; Kent has one for every 1,129.
  • In Kent, there are 456 violent crimes per 100,000 population; in Ottawa it is 176.

“The components of the Health Factors rank are indicators of tomorrow’s health, so not only does Ottawa County rank high in current measures of life expectancy and sickness, we are heading in the right direction for a healthy future,” said Ottawa County Public Health Epidemiologist Marcia Knol.

She said Ottawa County’s high ranking reflects the priority the county has placed on influencing those health factors. The county’s programs include sexual health education to decrease the teen pregnancy rate and reduce cases of infectious diseases; efforts to create greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables by working with the Holland Farmers Market and the Michigan Bridge Card program; and collaborating with local schools and restaurants on the county Food Safety and Services program.

The County Health Rankings also looks at how many of all restaurants are fast-food establishments: in Ottawa it is 54 percent, and in Kent it is 51 percent. The national average is 27 percent.

The announcement from Ottawa County health officials about the county’s rank also noted that more needs to be done to improve access to regular mammography screening, and to address the increasing number of children in single-parent households. They also noted that Ottawa County has consistently ranked low in its physical environment that supports health and healthy behaviors.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation also offers grants to coalitions across the U.S. to improve the health of people in their communities.

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