Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Michigan county trying to shed label as state's least healthiest with county-wide health effort

Muskegon County, Michigan
(Wikipedia map)
Muskegon County, Michigan, named the state's least healthiest county in 2011, "is trying something quietly radical: turning the small cluster of towns in the county into a multifaceted support network to help people make healthy changes that stick—like losing weight and keeping it off," David Freedman reports for Politico.

The county "has struggled with job loss, large pockets of poverty, and the raft of health challenges that afflict a disproportionate number of American towns far from the coasts," Freedman writes. "Some of the biggest of these health challenges largely boil down to obesity—a problem that vexes the entire nation and has become particularly acute throughout the Midwest and South, especially in less affluent communities that, like Muskegon, are far from big cities."

"It’s one of a handful of similarly fitness-resistant communities across the U.S. in which a new approach is slowly taking hold," Freedman writes. "With roots in evidence-based medicine rather than diet fads, it's an approach that focuses help where it's needed, is driven by a broad coalition of community members and looks to gradually grind out solutions by seeking tiny victories that can be aggregated and amplified."

"The goal is to form a web of interventions that successfully nudge, tempt, bribe and even scare people into sticking with new, healthier habits," Freedman writes. "The approach offers hope of accomplishing at the community scale what policymakers despair of getting done at the scale of an entire nation. These unflashy, slow-but-sure efforts are in their early stages and have received little attention in the press. But they are being carefully watched and nurtured by some influential national players."

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