MUSKEGON, MI – Education, racial disparities and discrimination, and mental health are among the top health priorities in Muskegon and Oceana counties.
Mercy Health identified health issues through its Community Health Needs Assessment, a federal survey conducted every three years by nonprofit health care providers.
Stevi Riel, director of community health and wellness at Mercy Health, said the assessment is the âguiding documentâ for understanding community health.
âHealth does not take place inside a hospital or a doctor’s office. Health takes place in a school, in a potluck at church, in the aisle of the grocery store and in a park, âshe said. âHealth happens in the community where people live. “
The full assessment summarizes the results of 1,310 responses to the survey and focus groups held in the spring of 2021.
Related: Economic security and racial inequality top community health concerns in Kent County
Education was identified as a top priority with 10.3% of Muskegon County respondents and 11% of Oceana County respondents saying they need more education or better skills to find a job.
Other major needs in Muskegon County were employment and income, community safety with an emphasis on racism and discrimination, disparities in housing and water, and healthy behaviors.
Respondents from Oceana County identified access to health care, housing and transportation, employment, food and exercise as key needs.
âLots of affinities between the two communities,â said Riel. âWe are able to understand the specific nuances that this community believes hinder its ability to reach its full potential for quality of life. “
In Muskegon County, racism and discrimination were issues highlighted in the assessment. Forty-three percent of black respondents said they would receive better health care if they were of a different race or ethnicity, compared to 3% of white respondents.
In addition, 11% of black respondents said they were denied medical care or received poor quality care because of discrimination.
Riel said this year’s assessment was “more intentional” to focus on racial inequalities in health.
In 2020, Muskegon County declared racism a public health crisis when COVID-19 highlighted disparities in care, health outcomes and coronavirus cases.
Related: Kent County groups discuss racism as a public health crisis
Access to mental health was highlighted in Oceana County with about one in five respondents saying it is easy to access mental health services and treatment for use-related disorders. substances.
Riel said the survey results continue to “underscore the importance of access” and having enough health care providers.
In Oceana County, there is a ratio of one mental health care provider per 2,940 residents to the statewide average of one provider per 360 people.
HealthWest in Muskegon and West Michigan Community Mental Health in Mason, Lake and Oceana Counties are working to expand access to mental health in the region by implementing a Federal Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC ).
“One of the main goals of the CCBHC is that it doesn’t matter where you live, it doesn’t matter your insurance, it doesn’t matter if you are sick or not, whether you are welcome to get services and we will serve you,” said Julia Rupp , Director of HealthWest.
Additionally, Rupp said stigma is an âongoing battleâ over accessing mental health services.
âWe have to make things as easy as possible for people,â she said.
Child care continues to be a major need with 36% of Muskegon County respondents and 44% of Oceana County respondents reporting difficulty finding child care.
Mercy Health prioritized this concern following the 2019 assessment, in part by supporting an affordable child care center developed by the Muskegon YMCA, Goodwill Industries of West Michigan, and United Way of the Lakeshore.
Riel said the COVID-19 pandemic “amplified” the need for child care.
After the assessment was released last week, Mercy Health will begin its plan to make improvements by working with community organizations, filling gaps and making investments, Riel said.
Community comments on the published report can be shared at Mercyhealth.com/about-us/contact-us or by emailing [email protected]
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