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People in Michigan are among the least healthy in the nation, according to new report

Hospital examination table
Mark Brush
Michigan Radio

People in Michigan are among the least healthy in the nation, according to a new reportby non profits Altarum and the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

Adjusted for population size, Michigan’s rate of premature death in 2019 is nearly 7% greater than the national average, the report said, and the share of Michiganders who report being in good or excellent health has been lower than the national average in each of the past 14 years.

Michigan also lags in life expectancy behind the U.S. average and the average of other neighboring Midwest states.

Corey Rhyan is research director with the non-profit Altarum, a group that helps federal and state health agencies and foundations improve health equity and outcomes through better systems of care.

"Michigan, when compared to the United States as a whole, and also compared to our neighboring Midwest states, has higher rates of a lot of chronic conditions, including cancer prevalence, cardiovascular disease, diabetes rates, and obesity rates," Rhyan said.

The state also struggles to address persistent disparities in health by race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geography, researchers note. For example, Black infant mortality rates in Michigan are 2.7 times higher than white infant mortality rates, and life expectancy by neighborhood varies by as much as a staggering 29 years.

The report notes that Michigan’s public health system is less well funded compared to other states and has experienced a loss in an experienced workforce coming out of the pandemic. It currently ranks 40th for per capita public health spending.

Eric Lupher is president of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

"Several decades ago, we eliminated the Michigan Department of Public Health," he said. "Its functions have been distributed among the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Agriculture, and different places. If you don't give it priority and give it department-level attention, it's just going to fall between the cracks."

The report notes that one of the few bright spots is the state's excellent health care systems. But Lupher said the problem is those health systems are not being deployed in order to improve public health outcomes for everyone in the state.