Ottawa County ranks second in Michigan in Health Outcomes according to the 2019 County Health Rankings (CHR). The rankings show us where we live matters to our health and good health is influenced by many factors beyond medical care including jobs, housing, education, poverty and more. This is the tenth year of the County Health Rankings. Ottawa County has ranked either first or second in those 10 years. This year is the fourth time Ottawa has ranked second, and three of those four times Leelanau was the county with the number one ranking. The 2018 Health Rankings among states put Michigan at 34 of 50.
35 health measures make up the 2019 CHR:
• Of those, two are new or revised so there is no earlier baseline to compare to: Flu Vaccinations (new) and Mammography Screening (revised to include a larger age group of females).
• In 82% (27) of the remaining 33 measures of health, Ottawa improved or remained the same.
• Ottawa did as well or better than Michigan in 89% (31) of measures.
• Compared to top U.S. performers, Ottawa met or exceeded 25% of the benchmark measures.
“It is sobering that while Ottawa’s measures meet or exceed almost all those for Michigan, we fail to meet three fourths of the healthiest counties in the U.S.,” said Marcia Mansaray, senior epidemiologist with the Ottawa County Department of Public Health.
Ottawa does NOT compare favorably to Michigan or top performing counties for:
• Access to primary care (medical, dental and mental health providers). Though Ottawa has consistently under performed in these provider access measures by comparison, its people maintain a high level of overall health as reflected in top rankings for Length of Life (first) and Quality of Life (third). These two areas reflect the current health of a community. The Ottawa County community has taken deliberate action through its Community Health Improvement Plan to help residents navigate the often complicated health care system and to create solutions that fill gaps. These concerted efforts are reflected in the improved ratios for dental and mental health providers.
• The other four areas measured by the CHR look at items that predict how healthy our community can be in the future. In those areas, our ranking ranges from a high of three to a low of 66. Air quality concerns, due to the geographic position we share with other counties along the lake shore in southwest Michigan, are captured by one of the measures in an area called Physical Environment where Ottawa has consistently ranked in the bottom quarter, though the measure is stable.
Other areas where Ottawa has a clear opportunity for improvement involve addressing social determinants of health such as:
• Violent crime
• Injury deaths
• Children living in single-parent households (has not increased since 2018, but has increased 29% since 2011)
• Excessive drinking has held at 21% of the adult population for the past four CHRs, up from 16% in 2010.
Ottawa strengths remain much as they have ever been:
• Longer life span
• Fewer teen births
• Few babies born preterm
• Fewer children in poverty and improving every year since 2013
• Very low unemployment
Items to celebrate:
• After four years of increases, adult obesity dropped two percentage points from 29% to 27%
• After nearly a decade of increases, sexually transmitted infections dropped slightly.
• Teen birth rate has either decreased or been stable every year in the past decade.
Why did Ottawa County drop from #1 to #2?
The rankings scores between the top few counties are very close together and nearly indistinguishable. The rankings do not suggest that they represent statistically significant differences from county to county. That is, the top ranked county in a state (#1) is not necessarily significantly healthier than the second ranked county (#2). What is evident is that the people of Leelanau are doing a great job at being a healthy county, which is intertwined with being economically vibrant and socially supportive. Ottawa County can surely learn from its partner to the north.