Survey data reveals key health needs of the UP community

UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WLUC) – Multiple health organizations worked together to gather public input on health care needs in the Upper Peninsula.

Six Upper Peninsula health departments and 36 community partners announce the release of the latest edition of the Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), covering all 15 districts of UP.

The 458-page report, now available online to the general public, provides a wealth of information on the health status of 300,000 UP residents.

The recently published CHNA is the culmination of an 18-month project led by local health departments in collaboration with hospitals, behavioral health agencies and health foundations. It includes data on lifetime health, access to 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, prioritize community health improvements, and measure changes over time.

“Assessing community health needs and planning to improve health are essential functions of public health,” said Kate Beer, health officer for the Western UP Health Department. “The findings in this report will help health care providers and communities address the health needs of people across the region.”

Beer said the unique partnership of 42 organizations serving UP continues to make it possible to conduct a comprehensive regional assessment of this breadth and depth.

“It’s a very robust assessment, with county-level data on topics from pregnancy and births to leading causes of death,” Beer said. “With survey data from more than 3,500 UP residents, we have a wealth of information about general health status and chronic disease prevalence; healthy behaviors such as diet, exercise, and use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs; rates of access to preventive care such as checkups, dental visits, immunizations, and cancer screenings; and rankings of the relative importance of 16 broad health issues based on respondents’ perceptions of their communities.

The evaluation’s main findings, outlined in its 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 care needs;
  • The importance of prevention – reducing tobacco use, maintaining a healthy body weight and avoiding excessive drinking – to reduce the incidence of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases;
  • Disparities in health care access, behaviors and outcomes for residents with different income and education levels;
  • Improvements in health insurance coverage over the past several years, as opposed to persistent widespread shortages of health care professionals for primary care, dental care, and behavioral health services; and
  • Residents’ concerns about the issues include the high cost of health care, economic conditions, drug use and a lack of mental health programs and services, among many public health issues.

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

Although challenges are clearly ahead, local health officials are optimistic about the prospects for improving the health of UP residents.

“With the information in this assessment at hand, stakeholders can identify priorities and focus on finding meaningful solutions to each community’s most pressing needs,” Beer said. “Data-driven planning will help us make the best use of limited resources and can also bring new programs and funding to our region.”

For more information and to view or download the full report and 15 district summaries, visit www.wupdhd.org/upchna.

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