Report: Wayne Co. has worst health outcomes in Mich.

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Wayne County, Michigan’s most populous county, ranks last in health outcomes, according to the 2016 County Health Rankings published this week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

The numbers reveal that by many measures, Wayne County has weaker family structure, poorer mental health, more violent crime, and more quality-of-life problems than its neighbors or the state as a whole.

Future reports will explain what public officials are doing about it. For now, here are some of the highlights of where things stand.

Mental health woes, violent crime trouble Wayne County

Adults in Wayne County reported an average of 4.1 mentally unhealthy days per month. The state average, 3.7 days per 30, is almost a full day higher than the number for the top 10 percentile for Americans, 2.8 days per 30. This means Wayne County residents spend about a full day and a third more of each month in a mentally unhealthy state, relative people in the happiest counties nationwide. This accounts for 10 percent of the weight of the health outcomes score.

On violent crime, which accounts for 2.5 percent of health factors, Wayne County, with 1,089 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, is out of whack with both Metro Detroit and the state as a whole. Statewide, the average is less than half that of Wayne County, or 464 per 100,000; in Oakland County, it’s 223; in Washtenaw County, 317; and in Macomb, 303.

The top 10 percentile nationwide is 59. This means Wayne County has 18 times more violent crime than the safest counties in America.

Family matters

Just under half of all Wayne County children, 48 percent, live in single-parent homes, which accounts for 2.5 percent of the weight of health factors.

The state average is 34 percent, more than one in three Michigan children. In Macomb County, it’s 29; in Oakland County, the number is 25 percent. In Washtenaw, 27 percent. The top 10 percentile nationwide is 21 percent.

If family formation is unstable in Wayne County, the same can be said of housing. Almost one in four Wayne County residents, or 23 percent, deals with one of the following issues: overcrowding, high costs, lack of a kitchen or lack of plumbing facilities, according to the study. Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw and the state average are all between 16 and 18 percent.

Severe housing problems account for 2 percent of health factors.

Teen birth numbers reveal a wide gap between Metro Detroit counties and not only Wayne County, but the state as a whole.

Defined as the number of births by girls 15-19, per 1,000, Wayne County has 43. The state average is 29. The top 10 percentile nationwide is 19, a number that Washtenaw (11), Oakland (16) and Macomb (19) counties either best or tie. This makes up 2.5 percent of the health factors score.

Good news and bad news

There are measures where Wayne County leads the nation. Some 94 percent of county residents have adequate access to exercise opportunities, which is defined in three ways: in census block, a half mile or less from a park; for urban areas, being a mile or less from a recreation center; in rural areas, being 3 miles or less from a recreation center.

This tops not only the state average of 84 percent, but the top 10 percentile nationwide, of 91 percent. Oakland (94 percent), Macomb (93) and Washtenaw (92) also are within the top 10 percentile.

Bad news here comes in two forms: access to exercise opportunities is only 1 percent of the health factors score. And high particulate levels in the air are a regionwide problem.

Measured in milligrams per cubic meter, this accounts for 2.5 percent of the health factors score.

Wayne County isn’t much worse off than its neighbors on air quality, but all do worse than the state average of 11.5. Wayne County’s 12.8 compares to Macomb and Washtenaw’s 12.7 and Oakland County’s 12.5. The top 10th percentile nationwide is 9.5.

Gone too soon

Wayne County residents die prematurely at a far greater rate than their neighbors — twice as much as people in Washtenaw County.

Defined as years of potential life lost before age 75, and accounting for 50 percent of health factors, Wayne County residents lost 9,900 such years, based on 2011-13 data. This compares to 4,900 for Washtenaw County, 5,800 for Oakland County, 7,100 for Macomb County, and a state average of 7,200. The top 10th percentile nationwide was 5,200.

Other rankings

While Wayne County ranked 83 out of 83 in health outcomes, Washtenaw ranked seventh, Oakland ranked 15th, and Macomb 58th.

As for health behaviors, such as smoking, obesity, and physical activity, among others, Oakland County ranked second and Washtenaw third. Macomb ranked 55th while Wayne County came in second-to-last at 82nd.

For health factors, which include behaviors and access to medical care, socioeconomic factors, and the physical environment, Wayne County ranked dead last. Washtenaw ranked first, Oakland fifth, and Macomb 53rd.