Grand Valley State University released its third edition of “Health Check: Analyzing Trends in West Michigan.” The report, supported by a grant from by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network, identifies significant health-related issues facing Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Allegan counties.
Paul Isely, professor and chair of economics in the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley, said demographics is one of the biggest stories coming out of the report. “The aging population is one reason why we’re seeing increases in obesity, which is leading to increases in diabetes and asthma,” said Isely. “The health care needs of the baby boom generation will change dramatically.”
Isely said caring for the large number of people with asthma and diabetes totals about $800 million, more than the compensation costs of the entire furniture industry in West Michigan.
Hari Singh, professor of economics at Grand Valley, said the report shows a significant increase in the number of individuals in the 45-64 and the over 65 age groups, and a drop in the number of individuals in the 18-34 age group in West Michigan. Singh said if the trend continues, the community will face a substantial burden of chronic health problems and, as a result, an increase in health care expenditures.
“The good news is we can change some of the bad trends by modifying our behavior,” said Singh. “For example, exercising would reduce obesity, which would bring down health care costs. Another focus is low birth weight babies. These babies tend to have a lifetime of health issues. Better prenatal care would reduce health care costs significantly.”
Other challenges include a continued nursing shortage. The report shows that each year in West Michigan, 900 fewer nurses are being trained than needed. On the positive side, the report shows that cancer rates, strokes, heart disease and smoking are all down.
The report provides an ongoing trend analysis of three major issues: Knowledge Foundations, Health Care Trends, and Economic Analysis. Jean Nagelkerk, vice provost for health at Grand Valley, said, “Our goal is to help the community use this data for strategic planning that will enable us to take actions which address the most pressing health care problems in the region.”
To view the complete report, click here.
Isely said the aging demographics in West Michigan is one of the biggest stories in the report (audio).
Isely said the cost of caring for people with asthma and diabetes is very high (audio).
Singh said we need to modify behaviors, like increasing exercise (audio).
Singh said the percentage of low birth weight babies in West Michigan is 7.2 percent (audio).