Bridge Magazine crunches health care numbers for Michigan

Apr 26, 2013

Credit Bridge Illustration/A.J. Jones

New figures from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation show a snapshot of health in Michigan. Bridge Magazine looked into the numbers and found great disparity in the state. They also found some numbers can be deceiving. 

WMUK's Gordon Evans spoke with Bridge Senior Writer Ron French about their stories on health differences in neighboring counties and the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases. 

Michigan's Std Belt: It's not what you think shows that Kalamazoo is among the counties with the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases. French says Kalamazoo does have a high rate of reported infections, specifically Chlamydia. But he says it doesn't reflect a difference in sexual activity among counties. It's more likely a difference in reporting among counties. 

French says there's a strip of counties that follow I-94 across the state that have the highest STD rates in the state. But he says among the counties that have the highest STD rates, 11 of the 12 also have a Planned Parenthood office. Those offices test for many things when women come in. There are lower rates of STDs in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. None of those have a Planned Parenthood office and one-fourth of the counties in the state don't have an operating OB/GYN. 

French says a rate like the one in Kalamazoo County probably indicates that more women are getting tested and then getting cured. It's hard to know the rate of STD's in some areas because the lack of testing. 

Living on the right side of the county line shows the differences in health statistics for neighboring Wayne and Washtenaw Counties. French says there are policy implications for those differences. Experts say it's related to education and economics. There's a high correlation between health and poverty. If the median family income and average education of a community are above average, the health of the community will also likely be above average. When French is asked about the policy implications he says:

"If you had a choice as a policy maker between putting more money into hiring more doctors or putting more money into education, put it into education."

People getting educated and good jobs leads to them having health insurance and other factors that lead to better health.

French says there are areas that underserved medically. But he says the best hospital in the world cannot help you if can't afford insurance or can't afford medication.