By Luke Robins
Clinton County Chatter Staff Reporter
Clinton County was ranked third overall in Health Factors and sixth in Health Outcomes by County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. Out of 82 counties across the state of Michigan, those are some high marks.
Officials of the county were not surprised as Clinton County has received high health rankings in the past.
Director of Community Relations, Marketing, and Volunteers at Sparrow Clinton Hospital, Nan Simmons, said, “I don’t think it’s a surprise. We’ve ranked high before and have had good numbers in the past. I think it’s a reflection of all the good work all the agencies are doing and all the people we’re working with in Clinton County are doing to have an impact on preventable disease.”
Leslie Kinnee, a public information officer at the Mid-Michigan District Health Department, said, “Clinton County has ranked very high in the past, so this is not something new…We are thrilled with number three.”
However, local citizens were much more surprised by this information.
Chris Stoye, a Clinton County resident, was surprised when she heard how high the rating was.
“I am surprised, because each city seems to have a lot of fast food places,” Stoye said.
Another resident, Anthony Merchand, was also surprised, but believes that this is a reflection of the progress that has been made.
“I think it is a surprise, but it is really positive and progressive especially for our area,” Merchand said, “We’re not as advanced as other areas, but with the farmers market and the push for healthier and local agriculture gives our community a chance to grow like this.”
According to countyhealthrankings.org, Health Outcomes consist of Length of Life, which examines premature deaths, and Quality of Life, which examines how healthy people are when they are alive.
Clinton County ranked fourth in Length of Life and 22nd in Quality of Life which resulted in the overall sixth ranking.
According to the approach on countyhealthrankings.org, the Health Factors are split into four categories: Health Behaviors, Clinical Care, Social and Economic Factors, and Physical Environment. Each category is ranked by the data collected and then added together to create the overall score. Each category is weighted differently with Health Behaviors accounting for 30 percent, Clinical Care is 20 percent, Social and Economic Factors at 40 percent, and Physical Environment at 10 percent.
Overall, Clinton County did not have many low rankings, with the lowest being 42nd in the Physical Environment category. Clinical Care was ranked 16th, Health behaviors at 10th, and Social and Economic Factors came in at first.
The Social and Economic category included things such as high school graduation rates, injury deaths, and college rates. All statistics that were comparable to the top U.S. performers.
Stephanie Johnson, an associate researcher and community coach at County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, said, “What’s going well is that high school graduation rates are high, injury deaths are low. Some of the poverty data is so so, but the overall collection data of those focus areas seem to be better than other counties in the state of Michigan.”
Johnson said there are more factors to account for in overall health than just eating right and exercising.
“It’s important to pay attention and look at how social and economic factors influence how long and how well people live. Health is more than what happens to doctors’ offices. Do people have access to good education, well-paying jobs, safe neighborhoods, low crime, do they have transportation to get them to where they need to go. For many people, where they live really matter to their health and if there are systems and policies in place to make the healthy choice the easy choice, they’re going to have a better quality and length of life.”
Stoye said, “I can see why Clinton County would be third, just by the fact that they have a really good system.”
According to Simmons, Sparrow Clinton Hospital provides mini grants to public schools in Clinton County as long as it’s being used for some sort of health initiative.
“Our focus is getting kids up and moving,” said Simmons.
St. Johns resident Sylvia McKay believes the local facilities were a factor in the high ranking.
“I think Clinton County has a good facility for health,” McKay said. “It’s good to see that people are taking advantage of it.”
Simmons said that Sparrow Clinton Hospital has received 10 awards this year for things such as patient experience and quality of care.
According to Simmons, Sparrow Clinton Hospital in St. Johns has added a lot to the community in the past decade or so.
“I can see all the benefits of Sparrow. You’re getting that expertise and you’re applying locally,” Simmons said. “It also allows us to rely on Sparrow’s network and resources and Sparrow is a leading health care provider in the state of Michigan.”
Johnson pointed out that obesity levels, sexually transmitted diseases, as its numbers trend upwards, and the low ratio of physicians to residents are areas to look at moving forward.
“The adult obesity level is higher than the state and top performers. This is not surprising as is it a challenge for many counties, but it is an area of concern. Over the last six years, it is getting worse.”
Plowman said that there are healthy options at local grocery stores to promote healthy eating.
According to Simmons, there are groups that promote healthy living such as the Healthy Communities of Clinton County Coalition (HCCCC). There are around 40 agencies who all care about the health of the residents of Clinton County.
Simmons said that the HCCCC then forms subcommittees for different projects and events such as the health fair.
The health fair is sponsored by the hospital and allows HCCCC representatives to have a booth with an activity, which has increased the interest among all ages, according to Simmons.
“Before we only offered things like free blood pressure checks, cholesterol checks, and flu shots. The typical crowd was people 40 and up,” Simmons said. “Now we reach a broad variety of people. We’ve expanded and now we see teens and even some of the older residents.”
According to Simmons, the health fair has expanded and progressed in recent years. Now there is a plentiful amount of activities for children such as walking trails, a pedometer challenge with a chance to win a $200 gift certificate for a bicycle or a Fitbit, and making jump ropes, but the children are also able to learn important lessons like how food gets from the farm to the table. There is even a woman, that goes by fresh fruit fairy, who teaches children just how many calories it takes to make a smoothie by using a blender that is powered by a bicycle.
Simmons said that there are other programs aimed at keeping the community healthy such as a car seat fitting program, bicycle helmet fitting for young children, and a program to recycle old medicine.
While the numbers from countyhealthrankings.org indicate that the access to exercise opportunities is 12 percent lower than the Michigan average, Adam Plowman, a St. Johns local, believes there are still good opportunities with all the parks.
“I think having a lot of parks is a good idea as they promote getting outside,” Plowman said. “We have four or five just here in St. Johns.”
John Draher, owner of Iron House Fitness Center in St. Johns, believes that there is a lack of awareness of physical activity opportunities.
“There’s the walking trail and parks,” Draher said. “I think more people need exposure to these opportunities. Most people have no clue they’re there.”
Overall, Clinton County is one of the healthiest counties in the state of Michigan and has received a ranking that reflects that.
Kinnee said, “We just want our counties as healthy as possible.”