Checking health trends

GV releases annual 'Health Check' report, shows financial costs of obesity, heart disease

By Drew Schertzer | 1/15/17 7:51pm

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GVL / Courtesy - Amanda Pitts, GVNow Kevin Callison (left) and Leslie Muller (right) speak during the Health Check Forecast at the Eberhard Center in downtown Grand Rapids on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017.

by Amanda Pitts / Grand Valley Lanthorn

The eighth edition of the “Health Check: Analyzing Trends in West Michigan” report, commissioned by the Grand Valley State University Office of the Vice Provost for Health, has been released for 2017. The study was conducted by GVSU economics professors Leslie Muller and Kevin Callison, with the help of their students, to see if there would be any changes to health-related insurance costs or employment in West Michigan.

The report was released at the West Michigan Healthcare Economic Forecast event Friday, Jan. 13 at the L.V. Eberhard Center. GVSU President Thomas Haas kicked off the event at 7 a.m. before Muller and Callison gave their presentation to a crowd of about 100 people. Afterward, four panelists from different professions gave their insight on the future of health in Michigan.

“For those under 65, Medicaid expenditures are rising,” Callison said. “However, the biggest cost changes are to coronary artery disease (CAD) since last year.”

The cost for people with CAD increased from about $23,000 last year to roughly $26,000 this year, according to the Health Check study. Still, Callison said all other costs for patients with depression, asthma and diabetes have gone down since last year. He said the main reason for this was the health of patients, although he also addressed the growing obesity trend and its enormous impact on people’s medical costs.

“One third of people are overweight and one third are obese,” Callison said. “Exercise is important, but getting people to make healthy lifestyle changes can be difficult.”

The other panelists agreed obesity comes at a high financial cost.

“Obesity will have cost people $66 billion by 2030,” said panelist Jim McDonald, vice president of Total Rewards at Meijer. “In the future, we want to improve a health-value-based plan design to help people, especially those that are at a high risk.”

Nick Lyon, another panelist and the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, agreed that health-related costs go down the healthier an individual’s lifestyle is.

“Cost of chronic diseases are associated with our fitness levels,” Lyon said. “It’s less costly with a healthy lifestyle for the population as a whole.”

Lyon said a communal approach for health and wellness is more productive than simply reaching out to individuals who need to improve their lifestyles. He said people in his line of work strive to build a model that integrates all services together, ultimately helping people live healthier lives and reducing their hospital costs.

David Blair, another panelist and the CEO and president of Mercy Health Physician Partners, suggested improving the framework from grades K-12. He said if children’s health education were improved, then obesity could be combated at a much younger age.

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