KESHENA, Wis. (NBC 26) — Annmarie Johnson has worked in Menominee Nation administration for decades. She says the tribe has always struggled with their health, but Covid-19 made things worse.
"The pandemic has exacerbated where we're at, especially with our health statistics but our services too," she said.
That's why tribal leaders are planning for the future.
"We really need to expand services and revise the models of what we used in yesteryear," the Tribal Administrator said.
The University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute released its annual rankings of the health of every county across the state. Out of 72 counties, Menominee County is ranked the least healthy.
"My reaction to that, at least my immediate reaction, is poverty," Tribal Chairman Ronald Corn Sr. said.
According to the data, 37 percent of Menominee County's children live in poverty. The county has just over 4,500 people.
"Poverty has a negative impact in regards to mental health as well as physical health," Corn said.
The rankings show just five percent of the population has access to exercise opportunities compared to the 78 percent state average.
Corn hopes the new Family and Community Engagement Center that opened in March will help.
"Looking at probably getting more health-related coaches, and so a real big push from our family center in regards to our community health," he said.
The data says 27 percent of the county population has poor or fair health.
To alleviate that issue, the tribe plans to expand its current medical clinic.
"Believing that that too is going to help, especially when we're able to get on the front end of our people's health and their health concerns," Corn said.
The chairman says there isn't one solution to a health crisis.
"We're thinking with those things that we're beginning to build a better future for our children," Corn said.