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Obesity, drug overdose deaths among state residents remain high

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Posted on January 10, 2020

Grand Valley researchers found that two-thirds of Michigan residents are overweight or obese, factors they said contribute to increased health risks and higher health care expenditures.

The findings were detailed January 10 during the 11th annual Health Check report, which analyzes health risks and trends for Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Allegan (KOMA) counties and compares data to statewide and national figures. The report highlighted the West Michigan Health Care Economic Forecast, sponsored by Grand Valley's Office of the Vice Provost for Health.

Sebastian Linde, assistant professor of economics, the Seidman College of Business, was the Health Check's lead author. Linde and Gerry Simons, professor of economics, found more than 30 percent of the KOMA population and more than 35 percent of the Detroit population were overweight. More than 30 percent of populations in both regions were considered obese. Data was from a survey published in 2018 by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Researchers studied the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed per 100 people in the Detroit and KOMA regions from 2006-2017. After a peak of more than 1 prescription per capita (per year) in Detroit in 2012, the region has seen a decline in the prescription rate to 0.76 per capita in 2017, Linde said. 

For the KOMA region, Linde said the prescription rate reached a high of 1.5 per capita (per year) in 2013, then declined to 0.64 prescriptions in 2017.

Researchers found overdose death rates (from all drugs) increased to 34 per 100,000 people in Detroit in 2017, and remained steady at 18 deaths per 100,000 people in KOMA.

Linde said health consequences associated with drug use and overdose must remain a critical focus of intervention and future policy initiatives.

Data focusing on suicides showed KOMA rates decreased from 15.4 per 100,000 people in 2014 to 13 per 100,000 in 2017. The Detroit region also recorded about 13 deaths per 100,000 people in 2017.

Other health risks are noted below:

• Cigarette smokers: (KOMA) 16 percent and (Detroit) 19 percent, 2017; both numbers are down from 2016 rates

• E-cigarette adult users: (Kent County) 5.6 percent, (Wayne County) 3.8 percent, 2017. Linde said future Health Check reports could include data from teen users of e-cigarettes.

The entire report is available online at Data was provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Blue Care Network, and Priority Health.