Oakland County comes in second in state for health behaviors

By: Sherri Kolade | C&G Newspapers | Published April 6, 2015


OAKLAND COUNTY — Oakland County residents are leading healthier lives, ranking No. 2 in the state for a second year in a row for health behaviors among 82 counties, according to a County Health Rankings Report.

​“We measure up well for many key factors that affect health,” Kathy Forzley, Oakland County Health Division manager/health officer, said in a press release. “These results reflect our commitment to improving the overall health and quality of life for our residents.”

Oakland County improved or maintained its position in 29 areas measured in the report, which was produced by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, according to the press release.

“The county has also remained one of the top 25 healthiest counties in Michigan, ranking above Wayne and Macomb counties,” the press release states.

The county’s health factors are measured in four key categories, including health behavior, access to and quality of clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment, according to the report.

Shane Bies, Oakland County Health Division administrator, said health factors include smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, access to exercise opportunity, teen birth rates and more.

“We improved on physical inactivity; we improved on our teen birth rates; we improved on percent of alcohol-impaired driving deaths,” Bies said.

Bies added that although the county has made strides, there is still work to do.

“We’re not resting on our laurels, and we’re looking at all the areas of all the factors in this report of how we can improve,” Bies said.

He added that the Oakland County Health Division is also working toward national accreditation, which includes bringing other partners to the table to find out and assess where the county is and plans to be, healthwise.

Oakland County residents’ length and quality of life ranking was 23rd out of 82 counties. For 2013-14, the county ranked 22nd.

County health factors were ranked ninth this year, down from eighth last year.

Ottawa County ranked No. 1 for length and quality of life. Washtenaw County ranked No. 1 for other health factors.

“You have health outcomes and health factors, and they are two separate but equally important indicators for our community,” Bies said.

“We’ve held steady in the two bigger categories, but it is the health behavior where we’ve remained the same last year,” Bies said.

The county improved in the social and economic category, moving from 10th to ninth place in the state.

This year, the county ranked 14th out of 82 for access to and quality of clinical care. Factors that go into clinical care include how many dentists and primary care physicians are available, how many people are uninsured, and more.

The county was ranked ninth in social and economic factors.

Bies said the ranking is a “unique, useful tool for us to really have a lot of conversations.”

Bies said Oakland County officials are collaborating with many health coalitions, health care entities and service providers to assist people in need, including homeless people and infants.

Bies added that the county has more mental health providers this year than it had last year. In 2014, the county had one mental health provider for every 455 Oakland County residents. This year, there is one provider for every 348 residents.

“Anytime you move in that direction it is a good thing,” Bies said.

Bies also said one of the things the county is particularly proud of in the health outcomes ranking is reducing  African-American infant mortality rates in Oakland County by more than half in the last decade. Infant deaths are attributed to complications from low birth weights and unsafe sleeping practices.

“That is just a great example of … something we have done in partnership with agencies in the community (and) when resources are put forward and put into a public health objective and agencies.”

County Executive L. Brooks Patterson attributed the county’s ranking accomplishment to county initiatives that improve the quality of life for residents and a strong public health program.

“Maintaining active and healthy lifestyles is at the heart of our public health programs and quality of life initiatives,” Patterson said.

The report looks at 3,000-plus counties in the United States.

For more information, go to countyhealthrankings.org or oakgov.com/health.