MARQUETTE - Being described as "healthy" no longer just means whether you have some sort of disease.
Released Thursday by Marquette County Health Department officials, the County Health Rankings, which compare counties in Michigan on a variety of health related topics, give the greater Marquette community an idea of how healthy it really is and what can be done to improve.
"In the past years, we've stopped focusing on medical care as a determinant of health," said Kevin Piggott, medical director for the health department. "That's really one piece of what makes us healthy."
The County Health Rankings are organized by the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and are released for every county in the country, allowing counties within states to see how they compare. Released for the first time last year, the rankings bring together a variety of information that is regularly collected on counties.
"What hasn't happened is we haven't had a central group to bring all this together," Piggott said.
For the 2011 rankings, Marquette County and the other 82 counties in Michigan were ranked on factors such as health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment.
Although Marquette County was ranked ninth in the state for health factors (how healthy it could be) and 10th in health outcomes (how healthy it is), once those two major categories are broken down, areas where the county's health can be improved can be seen.
The county's health outcome score is made up of scores for residents' length of life and quality of life, with Marquette being ranked 11th and sixth in the state, respectively.
The health factors score, however, is compiled from scores in health behaviors (ranked 24th in the state), clinical care (ranked first in the state), social and economic factors (ranked fifth in the state) and physical environment (ranked 62nd in the state).
Although the county is ranked first for clinical care, Piggott said the ranking for physical environment came as somewhat of a surprise. Specifically, the county was ranked 58th in the state for environmental quality and 68th for the built environment category.
"Those were some of the numbers that really surprised me," Piggott said.
Despite the lower ranking and the urge to immediately blame lower environmental scores on area industry, Piggott said officials would have to look at what data was used to make up the ranking and how it was collected before it can be fully analyzed.
"We can't just brush it off," he said.
Although the county ranked highly in the categories of clinical care and social and economic factors, it was ranked 24th in the state for health behaviors, which measures aspects like tobacco use, diet and exercise, alcohol use and unsafe sex.
For diet and exercise, and alcohol use, the county was ranked 47th and 41st in the state, respectively.
The ranking information will be looked at by a variety of agencies and organizations to try to give direction on how best to move forward to maintain the high scores the county received and try to improve the lower scores.
"Where we live does matter and it matters a lot to our health," Piggott said. "We do have a lot of strengths here."
To view the health rankings or Piggott's presentation, visit www.co.marquette.mi.us/departments/health_department/index.htm and click on County Health Rankings.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.