Systemic approach to health needed

Residents in Presque Isle, Montmorency and Alcona counties are becoming less healthy when compared to their peers across the state, according to a study detailed in Monday’s edition of The News by reporter Crystal Nelson.

Alcona County saw its ranking slide to 76 this year, from 43 last year, according to the results of an annual study of key health statistics published at Montmorency County saw its ranking move to 71 this year from 58 last year. Presque Isle County slid to 62nd from 34th last year.

Alpena County, meanwhile, saw its standings improve, rising to 41st out of Michigan’s 83 counties for health outcomes, compared to 56th in 2018.

Still, middle-of-the-pack is nothing to celebrate.

Most interesting in Nelson’s report was a statement from Denise Bryan, administrative health officer for District Health Departments No. 4 and No. 2, linking non-physical issues to physical health outcomes. Stress that goes along with serious problems such as generational poverty can affect people’s physical health, Bryan said.

And Northeast Michigan does not post strong statistics on that front, either: For example, 22 percent of children in Alpena County, 29 percent in Alcona County, 29 percent in Montmorency County, and 27 percent in Presque Isle County lived in households with incomes below the poverty line.

We are glad to see the District Health Department taking a systemic approach to health, and we would encourage all residents, educators, service providers and businesses in Northeast Michigan to take note. What the numbers detailed in Nelson’s story tell us is that we all play important roles in each other’s lives. Whether it’s schools giving kids a chance at a better future, businesses giving residents a living wage, or nonprofits helping families put food on the table, those efforts don’t only help people with economic their needs.

They could help our neighbors live longer, healthier lives.