Survey data reveals key health needs of UP community

UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WLUC) – Several health organizations have worked together to gather public opinion about health needs in the Upper Peninsula.

Six Upper Peninsula Health Departments and 36 community partners announce the release of the latest edition of the Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) covering all 15 UP counties.

The 458 page reportnow available online for the general public, provides a wealth of information on the health status of UP’s 300,000 residents.

The newly released CHNA is the culmination of an 18-month project led by local health departments in collaboration with hospitals, behavioral health agencies, and health foundations. It includes data on health across the lifespan, access to care, community issues like substance abuse and results from a large health survey conducted last August. Stakeholders will use the data to inform residents, identify priorities for improving community health, and measure changes over time.

“Community health needs assessment and health improvement planning are core functions of public health,” said Kate Beer, health officer for Western UP Health Department. “The findings of this report will help health care providers and communities meet the health needs of people across the region.”

Beer said the unique partnership of 42 organizations serving UP continues to make it possible to conduct a comprehensive regional assessment of this breadth and depth.

“This is a very robust assessment, with county-level data on topics ranging from pregnancy and births to leading causes of death,” Beer said. “With survey data from over 3,500 UP residents, we have a wealth of information on general health status and chronic disease prevalence; health-related behaviors such as diet, exercise, and alcohol, tobacco, and drug use; rates of access to preventive care such as health check-ups, dental visits, vaccinations and cancer screenings; and rankings of the relative importance of 16 major health issues, based on respondents’ perceptions of their communities.

The main conclusions of the evaluation described in its summary include:

  • A first look at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The impact of the region’s aging population on current and future health care needs;
  • The importance of prevention – reducing tobacco use, maintaining a healthy body weight and not drinking excessively – in reducing rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases;
  • Disparities in health access, behaviors and outcomes for residents of varying income and education levels;
  • Improvements in health insurance coverage in recent years, countered by persistent and widespread shortages of health professionals for primary care, dental care and behavioral health services; and
  • Residents’ concerns about the issues include the high cost of health care, economic conditions, drug use, and a shortage of mental health programs and services, among many community health issues.

The report also highlights emerging health issues, including the continuing opioid epidemic and the rise in marijuana use, as well as the growing risk of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease and anaplasmosis.

While there are clearly challenges ahead, local health officials are expressing optimism about the prospects for improved health for UP residents.

“With the information in this assessment at their fingertips, stakeholders can identify priorities and focus on finding meaningful solutions to each community’s most pressing needs,” Beer said. “Data-driven planning will help us make the most of limited resources and could also bring new programs and funding to our region.”

For more information and to view or download the full report and 15 county summaries, visit

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