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Governor Snyder focuses on creating a healthier Michigan

View the Full Text of the Governor's Health and Wellness Message

View the Michigan Health and Wellness Dashboard

Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011

Contact: Sara Wurfel
P: 517-335-6397

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Health is the foundation for Michigan's economic transformation and overall quality of life, Gov. Rick Snyder said today in laying out his vision for improving health and wellness across the state.

The governor presented his Special Message to the Legislature on Health and Wellness during a visit to the Heart of the City Health Center in Grand Rapids. 

Good health allows children to thrive and learn, it readies graduates for meaningful careers and it permits our current work force to grow and adapt to a dynamic economy. Healthier residents also strengthen families and communities. The governor emphasized that every Michigander has a role to play in improving health and wellness. While medical advances can address many problems, all Michiganders have the power to improve their own health. This is critical because many of the chronic conditions we face, from diabetes to coronary heart disease, are greatly influenced by our lifestyle choices.

"By embracing positive habits such as maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting an annual checkup and not using tobacco, we can significantly improve our health," Snyder said. "Committing to these lifestyle choices is good for us as individuals and good for us as a state. When it comes to health and wellness, we can and we must do better."

Currently 67 percent of Michigan adults are overweight or obese. In fact, Michigan is eighth in the nation with an adult obesity rate of 31.7 percent. This is significant because obesity is linked to several chronic conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Obesity also has taken a toll on our state financially. Nearly $3 billion in annual medical costs are attributed to obesity - a cost that taxpayers and job providers can no longer afford.

"We must find ways to reduce obesity. If we don't, our health will deteriorate and health care costs will continue to climb, creating a major obstacle for the reinvention of our state," said Olga Dazzo, director of the Michigan Department of Community Health. "With 12.4 percent of our youth now obese, it's particularly important that we stem the rising obesity tide. These are Michigan's future leaders, but if they don't adopt healthier lifestyles, they could be the first generation of Michiganders that will not live as long as their parents."

To address the obesity problem, the Department of Community Health will host a Sept. 21 summit called "Michigan Call to Action to Reduce and Prevent Obesity." Stakeholders will assemble in Lansing to identify strategic steps to halt the spread of obesity and improve the health of Michiganders.

Improving access to health care also will lead to improved wellness and costs savings. For too many individuals and small businesses, cost has put health care coverage out of reach. The Health Insurance Exchange, mandated by federal health care reform legislation, is an attempt to change that. The Affordable Care Act requires states to establish a health insurance exchange by 2014. Snyder said Michigan must be prudent in planning to meet federal requirements. If Michigan doesn't create its own exchange, the federal government will impose one.  

In an effort to create a system uniquely designed to meet the needs of Michiganders, Snyder will ask lawmakers to pass legislation creating the MI Health Marketplace before Thanksgiving. The Michigan-based online health insurance exchange will emphasize free-market principles and provide a competitive marketplace for consumers through the use of technology.

Other proposals include:

  • Developing strategies to address Michigan's current and anticipated shortages in the health care sectors. The state could face a shortage of anywhere between 16,000 and 24,000 physicians by 2020.
  • Reviewing the 30-year-old statute under which Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan operates to make sure it is up to date.
  • Achieving better coordination between the federal Medicare and state Medicaid programs on behalf of the more than 205,000 residents who are dually eligible for both programs.
  • Aggressively dealing with the challenges posed by autism, a pervasive developmental disorder that affects one out of every 110 children born today. To date, 27 states have changed their laws to require insurers to cover evidence-based therapies for autism that will save taxpayers billions of dollars. 
  • Pursuing additional Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) for Michigan. FQHCs are federally funded community organizations that offer care to people of all ages, regardless of their ability to pay. Only 29 of the total 1,048 FQHCs are in Michigan.
  • Helping Michigan veterans access their benefits. Only 19 percent of Michigan veterans use their U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care benefits compared to their counterparts in other states who use theirs at rates closer to 25 percent. 
  • Giving the Michigan Department of Natural Resources the authority to require that all state-owned and operated beaches be smoke-free. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death, killing 14,419 Michiganders in 2009. It also costs the state more than $3.4 billion a year in health care costs.
  • Encouraging policymakers to include the expansion of the successful Healthy Kids Dental program as a priority item during the fiscal year 2013 budget cycle. 
  • Incorporating Body Mass Index (BMI) information in the Michigan Care Improvement Registry, which tracks childhood immunization records. This will increase obesity screening rates and improve treatment of childhood obesity.
  • Working with Michigan's farmers to alleviate the state's obesity problem.

In keeping with previous special messages, an online "dashboard" has been created to help drive change and gauge progress in achieving Michigan's health and wellness goals.

The dashboard and the entire Special Message on Health and Wellness are available at