New Study Shows Michiganders are Among the Least Healthy Americans

August 03, 2023

Ranked 39th in overall health outcomes, Michigan has persistent disparities in health by race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geography.

Altarum and the Citizens Research Council of Michigan today released Health Challenges and Opportunities, the third in a series of five papers. The research series, Michigan’s Path to a Prosperous Future: Challenges and Opportunities, addresses a variety of recent statewide trends, from population change to health outcomes to infrastructure quality, many of which are progressing unfavorably, and how Michigan can support a more prosperous, thriving future.

The Citizens Research Council and Altarum joined forces to address these threats and present opportunities, releasing a realistic, data-informed vision of Michigan’s future based on current trajectories across multiple dimensions: demographic, economic, workforce, infrastructure, environment, and public services. The first three of these papers can be found on the Citizens Research Council website and the two remaining papers will be released over the coming months.

The research shows that Michigan is losing its competitive edge and stagnant population growth is a major contributing factor. Michigan is in the bottom third of many national rankings, including 34th in household income, 36th in K-12 educational outcomes, and dropped from 32nd in health outcomes in 2008 to 39th today. This stands in contrast even to neighboring Midwestern states, who have experienced on average better overall health outcomes over the last two decades. And as the state’s population continues to age, challenges to the state’s overall health outcomes are expected to intensify.

“Even though Michiganders, on average, have greater access to health care and we have strong anchor institutions offering world class medical care, the health of our population is generally worse than national averages,” said Corey Rhyan, Research Director, Health Economics and Policy at Altarum. “This outcome reflects the environmental, social, and economic factors that strongly predict our residents’ health.” 

“Michiganders are dying sooner than other Americans, with health outcomes that unfortunately have barely improved over the last 20 years.” 

The report details significant and persistent health disparities by race, with the premature death rate among Black Michiganders being nearly twice as high as White and Hispanic populations and communities of color having fewer dedicated health care providers than White communities. Most notably: Black infant mortality rates are three times as high as White infant mortality rates.

Socioeconomic status and geography are considerable factors determining health outcomes and Michigan ranks 37th out of 50 states in social and economic factors, such as the rate of children living in poverty, residents experiencing food insecurity, and residential segregation. People living in Michigan’s rural communities, such as parts of the northern Lower Peninsula and much of the Upper Peninsula, have little to no access to health providers to meet needs such as primary, maternity, prenatal, and behavioral health care.

The report notes that Michigan’s future depends on communities of color, which will represent 40% of the working-age population by 2050. Yet Black and Brown residents are in poorer health than their White neighbors. Removing the stark socioeconomic and racial disparities in healthcare based on where one lives in Michigan is imperative.

“We need to take a whole society approach to understanding the root causes of health by strengthening Michigan’s public health system, and investing in research, education, and policies regarding social determinants of health outcomes,” said Eric Lupher, president of the Citizens Research Council. 

“Equity must be top-of-mind when it comes to our state's health care system. We must make sure our state’s robust health care systems, from affordable insurance plans to world class hospitals, serve all Michiganders, regardless of race and ethnicity, income, or geography.” 

The series was funded by Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, Hudson-Webber Foundation, Grand Rapids Community Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, Michigan Health Endowment Fund, The Joyce Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, and the Ballmer Group.

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Corey Rhyan
Research Director, Health Economics and Policy