Health director: public policy changes needed

MARQUETTE – The county’s health director on Thursday said a shift in public policy may be needed in order to make national health care truly effective.

“I think we hear a lot about personal responsibility in terms of diet and responsibility, but I remind you we haven’t built communities that foster people to make those healthy choices,” Dr. Terry Frankovich said during a presentation to the local chapter of the American Association of University Women. “That’s policy and a lot of that is local policy decisions.”

Frankovich is the medical director for the Marquette County Health Department and serves as the medical director for the Dickinson-Iron and Western U.P. health departments, as well as for Public Health of Delta and Menominee counties.

Many cities in America, she said, were built to accommodate cars and it can be tough to walk or bike to work or to run errands.

Frankovich made the comments during the presentation at the Federated Women’s Clubhouse in Marquette.

She cited a 2013 study from the Institute of Medicine that compared the United States and 16 other “high-economy, highly industrialized countires.”

“This was really one of the most comprehensive looks at what we’re doing over a lifetime,” she said.

The results showed the U.S. at or near the top of the rankings in research and development, wait times to see providers, cancer death rates, time spent in the hospital and hospital safety.

In nearly every other major category, however, America was worst or near there. The U.S., according to the report, was worst for infant mortality, male life expectancy and gun homicides. Additionally, the country ranked in last or next to last in teen pregnancy, drug deaths, female life expectancy, obesity and diabetes.

Frankovich said the data does not seem to be related to any social or economic categories.

“(Researchers) were quite stunned to find we were behind on almost all of the parameters,” she said. “When you look at it, it’s interesting. This cuts across socioeconomic status.”

America, she said, has higher median incomes than most of the other countries, but more economic inequality and more poverty, primarily child poverty. And the fact isn’t that the U.S. has always been behind. Rather, the country is failing to keep up internationally.

“In a lot of these indicators, we’re behind because the other countries are making huge gains, and we’re not,” she said.

Frankovich and Dr. Kevin Piggot, assistant chief medical officer and the medical director of community health at Marquette General Health System, talked to a crowd of about three dozen people Thursday, discussing the ins and outs of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. His email address is