Panelists to discuss health-care trends in West Michigan

By Drew Schertzer | 1/8/18 1:15am

GVL / Courtesy - Kevin Callison and Leslie Muller will detail health trends for the area January 12 at the ninth annual West Michigan Health Care Economic Forecast.

The Grand Valley State University Office of the Vice Provost for Health and the Seidman College of Business Alumni Association have teamed up to survey health-care trends in West Michigan. On Friday, Jan. 12, the results of these surveys will be compared to those from other parts of Michigan, as well as the national average. 

The West Michigan Healthcare Economic Forecast will begin at 7:30 a.m in the L.V. Eberhard Center’s Multipurpose Room, located on the Pew Campus. Presentations by Leslie Muller, assistant professor of economics at GVSU, and Kevin Callison, assistant professor of global health management and policy at Tulane University, will kick off the morning. 

Muller looked at two different surveys for the forecast. The first was conducted by the Employers Association of West Michigan. They asked their workers questions about what types of health insurance they have and what types of savings they have, along with other medical-related questions. The second survey acquired information from the community using the VoiceKent survey, which is conducted in Kent County, according to Muller.

Muller said the GVSU Johnson Center for Philanthropy made it possible to survey all of Kent County, providing much more data than from previous years. The community members were asked if they were insured, the affordability of medical care, costs of prescriptions and more. The importance of this is that this year the community will be given more of a voice, Muller said. 

“We are going to get a different snapshot of health care looking at these two different perspectives on health insurance,” Muller said. 

While Muller will be using these two surveys, Callison will be digging deeper into why certain trends happen.

Callison and Muller have been tracking health-care expenditures and service use in West Michigan compared to those in other regions. The data from West Michigan will be juxtaposed with the data from the east side of the state, as well as from similar areas across the country, Callison said. 

New elements have been added this year for data on prescription drug costs, helpful hospital visits and emergency use. Callison said what is different from the past is that now he can see what is influencing certain trends and the reason(s) behind it. 

An example Callison used is heart disease in Grand Rapids. He said that typically, expenditures are lower for the west side of Michigan compared to those of the east side of Michigan for health-related issues. For some reason, though, the expenditures from the last four to five years have risen steeply for heart disease in West Michigan, Callison said. 

Jean Nagelkerk, vice provost for health at GVSU, is looking forward to the public finding out the reasons behind some of the health trends in West Michigan. 

“We hope the data will help people associate better understanding on how health behaviors and growth trends impact our population,” Nagelkerk said. 

Panelists will discuss results of research and answer questions from the audience. The panelists include Peter Hahn, chief medical officer for Metro Health Hospital; Earle Irwin, chair of the Board of Directors for Irwin Seating Company; and Nick Lyon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The event will be available via live webcast. It is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield and Priority Health. For more information, visit

Editor's note: In the original version of this article, published online and in print Monday, Jan. 8, we incorrectly identified Kevin Callison as a professor of economics at Grand Valley State University. He is actually an assistant professor of global health management and policy at Tulane University. This information has been corrected.

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