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MedConnect Summary:
Eden Wells Addresses WCMS on Activism
By Richard E. Burney, MD
Eden Wells, MD, the Chief Medical Executive in the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, gave an engaging presentation Wednesday night, May 9, before members of the Washtenaw County Medical Society. Her message was that even though “activism” has increasingly been seen as a negative label by conservative elements in government, when it comes to public health, all physicians need to be activists. She outlined the challenges facing the state in this regard; they are not what you might imagine.
Dr. Wells, as Chief Medical Executive, devotes most of her time traveling across the state to promote awareness of the  ve “winnable” public health battles in Michigan. Detailed information about these can be found at MiCHWA2015_MDHHS-Population-Health-and-Winnable- Battles_Wells.pdf
The winnable battles are:
 1. Improving nutrition, reducing obesity, and increasing physical activity for all citizens. 31.5% of Michigan residents are obese, increasing their risk of chronic conditions. Over 25% of MI deaths result from cardiovascular disease and stroke. – $10.2 billion is spent in healthcare costs for heart disease-related medical costs per year. The underlying causes are inadequate physical activity, poor fruit/vegetable consumption; limited access to opportunities to
choose activity and healthy eating.
 2. Healthier babies: improving the states infant mortality rate by improving pre-and
post-natal care. Michigan ranks 8th in infant mortality. 1 in 8 babies in the state are born prematurely; 1 in 12 are underweight. 1 of 6 infant deaths in caused by unsafe sleep.
 3. Improving cardiovascular health by reducing morbidity and mortality related to
heart disease and stroke. 34.6% of Michigan adults self-report that they have ever been told they have high blood pressure. Only approximately 63% to 70% of Michigan adults with hypertension are in control.
 4. Smoking cessation: Tobacco Use is the leading preventable cause of disease and
death in Michigan. – Approximately 21.4% of Michigan’s adult population smoke cigarettes. • $3.4 billion is spent each year in health care cost for tobacco- related illnesses. Tobacco-related illnesses cost Michigan’s Medicaid program $1.1 billion annually. There is limited funding for the state prevention program, industry marketing and failure to increase the cigarette tax contribute to Michigan’s current smoking trend.
 5. Immunization: ensuring that preventable diseases are prevented. 1 in 3 Michigan children 19-36 months of age have not received all recommended vaccines. Michigan ranks fourth worst (47th) among all 50 states • Michigan’s coverage rates for adolescents is 68.7% (Although in this regard, Michigan is better than average -- 18th.
The prevalence and causes of these health problems vary by community across the state. There are therefore no simple, global solutions. Rather, solutions to these problems need to be tailors to the community, which is where physician input can be helpful.
Dr. Wells encouraged the audience to think of these public health issues when seeing individual patients and to advocate for public health programs when engaging with legislators and other of cials.
What are the biggest issues confronting her today? PFAS contamination of ground water at old industrial sites (e.g., Wolverine shoes in Rockford); hepatitis A, which is currently epidemic and spreading across the state; lead contamination, not just in the pipes in Flint, but in old
22 Washtenaw County Medical Society BULLETIN JULY / AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2018

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