America’s Health Rankings 2009—the longest running annual assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by-state basis sponsored by the United Health Foundation, Partnership for Prevention, and American Public Health Association—shows that 43% of Americans will be obese by 2018 if something isn’t done now. This would cost the health care system $344 billion annually.
Michigan ranks 30th in the rankings for overall health, and has had a 109% increase in obesity from 14.1% in 1990 to 29.5% in 2009. Researchers estimate that the direct health care cost of obesity for the state is over $3 million; however, if current obesity levels are maintained, in 10 years Michigan could save $6.8 million off a projected $57.968 million health care bill.
On a positive note, in the past five years, the prevalence of smoking decreased from 26.1% to 20.4% of the state’s population, and in the past 10 years, immunization coverage has increased from 46.7% to 76.8% of children between the ages of 19 and 35 months receiving complete immunizations.
Health professionals at Community Health Centers are on the ground every day helping individuals and families lead healthier lifestyles. In addition to providing comprehensive, quality primary and preventive health care, they also provide health education, weight loss programs, nutrition counseling, smoking cessation programs, and diabetes education and management.
Dan Bradley, a patient at Family Health Center (FHC) of Battle Creek, celebrated his improved health and 150 pound weight loss without surgery or use of medications at the Health Center’s first Wellness Celebration. When he started his lifestyle makeover, Dan was able to walk only very short distances, was taking several medications, and was unable to work. He met with an FHC Express Nurse on a regular basis and with an FHC Holistic Health Educator to learn about good nutrition and exercise.
Dan’s exercise was quite limited in the beginning, and he was only able to walk two or three minutes at a time. With hard work and persistence, Dan eventually was able to increase the amount of time and frequency he exercised. With his new-found knowledge, his high level of self-determination, and strong support from his family, Dan was able to eliminate all medications and go back to work.
Trudy Gauthier, Health Educator at Alcona Health Centers in Oscoda and Lincoln, Michigan, sees first-hand the impact that positive lifestyle changes can make on a person’s overall health. She counsels patients individually about the role of nutrition in maintaining health and preventing and managing chronic diseases, leads group exercise classes, and operates a family weight loss program at Alcona Health Centers’ Teen Health Center.