Community health improvement plan presented

BALDWIN — Local health leaders are hoping their efforts to collaborate, collect data and find solutions pertaining to health issues in Lake County will improve the well-being of area residents.

During a recent Lake County Health and Services Roundtable meeting, members of District Health Department No. 10 gave a presentation on the Community Health Improvement Plan, touching on jurisdiction-wide and Lake County data on health concerns and ways to meet these challenges.

Earlier this year, a community health needs assessment was conducted in each community and information through a community survey, input sessions and secondary data from sources such as Michigan Department of Health and Human Services was collected. In each county of the DHD No. 10 district, community members reviewed the information and chose the top three health issues.

In Lake County, the top three targeted health concerns were chronic disease, access to health care and tobacco use.

Donna Norkoli, health planner supervisor for DHD No. 10, presented Lake County data, touching on these three concerns.

“Lake County is higher than the rest of the jurisdiction with chronic disease, which includes heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes,” she said.  “Overweight and obesity, a contributing factor to chronic disease, is at 70.5 percent in the county, which is about the same as other counties.

“The diabetes rate is 14 percent, compared to 10.2 percent in the district.”

Other contributing factors of chronic disease listed were high blood pressure, which is at 41.6 percent in Lake County compared to 33.4 percent in the district; high cholesterol, at 42.9 percent in the county compared to 32.2 percent in the district; tobacco use and lack of screening and regular medical care.

According to the survey, 56.5 percent of county residents think access to health care is the best way to address chronic disease while 40.3 percent said access to affordable healthy foods is the best solution. Healthy lifestyles and increased access to physical activity with parks and recreation also were suggested by residents.

Community suggestions to help prevent chronic disease were increasing health education on food and nutrition, providing cooking classes for families and youth, increasing the number of women who breastfeed, encouraging personal health accountability, providing gym access, increasing youth activities, encouraging workouts at a fitness center and promoting guided trail walks.

More frequent farm markets, community gardens and access to affordable and healthy foods also were deemed important.

Norkoli addressed issues about access to health care.

“We need to find ways to make health care more accessible for area residents,” she said. “We need to address transportation barriers, decrease waiting times during doctor visits and help people find medical providers.”

Data shows 12.7 percent of adults in Lake County do not have a primary care provider. For adults under the age of 65, 10.1 percent are uninsured and 45.5 percent adults reported no dental visit in the past year. Lake County has a shortage of primary care, behavioral health and dental health providers.

Kathy Savor, CEO of Baldwin Family Health Care, who was present at the meeting, gave input on the issue.

“We are trying to get people to commit to health sessions, but this can be difficult for them if they have trouble with transportation. One way we are increasing access to health care at our facility is extending hours so more people are able to get health attention,” she said.

Scott Lombard, with Spectrum Health, suggested Telehealth, a program now offered through Big Rapids Spectrum Health, might help with transportation barriers for older adults seeking health attention.

“People can use phones for medical attention rather than going places, which will help with lack of transportation. They wouldn’t have to get out so much during the harsh winters and it is good for people who have a hard time getting out in general,” he said.

Norkoli said tobacco use also was a big concern in Lake County. The smoking rate is higher than the rest of the jurisdiction.

“The smoking rate in Lake County is 39.1 percent compared to 29.1 percent throughout the district,” she said. “The percentage of women who smoke while pregnant, 37.9 percent, is especially concerning. We need to encourage more education about smoking awareness and prevention.”

Lung cancer rates among smokers in Lake County is listed 80.9 percent compared to 69.1 percent in the district, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is at 16.3 percent in Lake County compared to 9 percent in the district.

Community members said drug and smoking awareness and prevention should be used to address the issue.

DHD No. 10 received funding from the MDHHS to promote the Michigan Tobacco Quitline and provide training to healthcare providers about tobacco treatment, and funding to increase referrals to tobacco cessation programs and trained staff as tobacco treatment specialists available for referrals.