Community Context and Challenges

  • Higher educational attainment in Sanilac County lags behind the state; 11% of the population holds a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 29% for Michigan.

  • Between 2012 and 2014, Sanilac County’s mortality rates exceeded those in the state for several chronic diseases, including heart disease, liver disease, and diabetes.

  • Cases of child abuse and neglect in the county exceed statewide averages, with 124.7 children per 1,000 living in homes investigated for abuse or neglect, compared with the statewide average of 90 children per 1,000.

  • Sanilac county faces significant shortages in health care providers, with a ratio of 2,818 residents per primary care doctor, compared with 1,246 per primary care doctor for the state.
  • Access to and affordability of health care coverage are ongoing barriers to good health; one-fourth of residents polled in a hospital needs assessment said they or a family member did not obtain needed services in the past three years, with 12% reporting no insurance as the primary reason.

Community Actions: A First Look

Sanilac County initiatives are focused on rebuilding the economic base and ensuring a healthier future for residents.

Despite the challenges of an uncertain economic future, unemployment in Sanilac County has dropped by more than half in the past five years, from more than 15% in 2010 to slightly above 6% in 2015, while efforts to retrain workers are showing encouraging signs as well. Meanwhile, residents and local organizations are taking part in initiatives to provide the next generation with a strong foundation for economic success and well-being.

Going Forward: Questions for Consideration

Sanilac County is slowly recovering from the economic turmoil of the past decade-plus, although the long-term stability of the region’s economy remains a work in progress. Efforts to improve the health and well-being of the population will require similar and sustained focus, given the prevalence of chronic disease and a significant shortage of health professionals. Additional surveillance, data and information gathering, analysis, and reporting will examine the extent to which current initiatives to retrain workers and improve child welfare are yielding positive outcomes, and whether the county is beginning to address the burden of chronic disease and shortage of health providers.

The following questions could help assess the extent to which health and well-being in Sanilac County will attain a similar degree of commitment as the region’s investments in economic redevelopment:

  • To what extent has the improved economy provided residents with jobs that offer health insurance benefits?

  • Which approaches are being examined or adopted by the health department and area health professionals to address the high rates of chronic disease and prevalence of smoking and obesity in Sanilac County?

  • To what extent can Sanilac County’s Great Start Program measure progress toward the goals it identified in its needs assessment for child health and well-being?

  • What evidence is there that Michigan’s changes to its Medicaid plan under the “Healthy Michigan Plan” demonstration program have improved health behaviors among Sanilac County residents?

  • How are community leaders and local hospitals working to attract and retain health care professionals to the region?
  • Which approaches have the county considered to address barriers to health care access associated with its rural nature?