Archived Story

Doctor puts low health rankings in perspective

Published 10:41am Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dowagiac Daily News

Cass County ranks in the bottom half of the state in a recent national study by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, which ranked the health of 82 counties in Michigan.

The report, based on data between 2002 and 2008, ranked Cass 50th in health factors and 63rd in health outcomes. The study was done for each state in the country but did not make comparisons from state to state.

Dr. Frederick Johansen, medical director at the Van Buren and Cass County District Health Department, doesn’t put too much stock in the rankings.

“It’s very, very difficult to make a comparison from county to county,” he said. “The wealthier counties, of course, are on top or the Upper Peninsula counties with no inner-city populations.”

He also added the report overlooked the fact that although there is only one hospital in Cass, Borgess-Lee Memorial in Dowagiac, residents often get care in other counties or Indiana.

Johansen does think the report has some value in that it looks beyond just medical care.
“It’s good from the standpoint that it looks at individual indicators for a county,” he said. “It does give support to the credence that health is more than the medicine that there is in a county.”

The report looks at two health outcomes – how long people live (mortality) and how healthy people are while alive (morbidity).

It also examines four types of health factors – health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment.

Johansen wasn’t too surprised to find the county ranked so low.

“Poverty was a factor. The ozone level hit us. Air pollution comes from Chicago and Milwaukee,” he said.

“Many of the factors we already knew about.”

Johansen thinks the biggest health issue for the county is access to primary, pediatric and dental care.

He also hopes the report will help residents realize that exercise, a healthy diet and a smoke-free lifestyle are just as important as the quality of care they get from their doctors.

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