Research study shows residents of area counties are healthier

By: 
Linda Gallagher, Contributing Writer

Photo by Linda Gallagher

Residents in Antrim and Kalkaska counties who are getting more exercise and have more opportunities to be active are becoming healthier overall, according to the results of an annual health study released last week. 

 

REGION – An annual University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute study released last week showed that residents of both Antrim and Kalkaska counties are healthier now than they were just a few years ago.

The list analyzed socioeconomic factors, such as crime, accidental injuries, education, unemployment, poverty rates and the number of children in single parent homes, as well as health behaviors, availability of medical care, lifespan and quality of life.

Studies have been done of all 83 of Michigan's counties since 2011. 

In this year's study, Crawford County proved the least healthy, with Wayne County coming in as the state’s second unhealthiest, while Leelanau County was healthiest, with Kalkaska County ranking 29th and Antrim County 17th as most healthy.

The rankings in both counties were much improved over the status of just two years ago in Kalkaska County, when it was in the lower percentile of the study with a ranking of 75th healthiest in 2017 – and four years ago in Antrim County, when it took the 64th spot.

Factors leading to the better health of residents in Antrim County included a decrease in premature deaths from diseases in those under the age of 70, with cancer the leading cause of death; a decrease in low birth rates, smoking, excessive alcohol drinking, and a decrease in overall poor health; as well as alcohol-related driving deaths.

Although access to health providers was down slightly in 2019, the number of those with medical insurance increased by several points, most likely due to a health insurance mandate from the federal government.

Noted as "of concern" in the study was the fact that, while the rate of those with access to exercise opportunities increased, so did the rate of adult obesity.

Adult obesity was down slightly in Kalkaska County as opposed to 2017, but the rate of physical inactivity increased by only one point in 2019.

However, the rate of premature deaths in those under 70 was down substantially in 2019 as compared to two years ago, with 2,000 fewer deaths from chronic diseases, and more than half the residents in good health as compared to 2017.

A reduction in smoking, excessive drinking and alcohol-related driving deaths also helped to increase Kalkaska County's standings.

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