Jul 28, 2014

Of 56 Counties, L.A. Ranked 26th Most Healthy in California

The average county resident's health suffers from environmental factors and lags well behind Orange County, San Diego County and several Bay Area counties.

Of 56 Counties, L.A. Ranked 26th Most Healthy in California

A private health foundation study of the health and physical well-being of residents of counties nationwide ranked Los Angeles County in the middle of the pack of California counties, 26th out of the 56 counties that were surveyed.

The report was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and created by
the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.  The map on the right shows California county rankings, the whiter colors meaning higher rankings, and the greener shades lower. The full nation interactive map can be viewed here

Jonathan Fielding, the head of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said he is not surprised by the ranking. Heavily urban areas tend to get lower rankings he said, as well as ones that have a more heterogeneous ethnic mix, he said. There is also a high correlation between poverty, high unemployment, income levels and poor health.

"People who don't graduate high school tend to have a shorter life span," Fielding said. "They tend to be less health literate, less likely to seek out preventive care and pursue a healthy lifestyle." He noted that L.A. County has a low graduation rate compared to elsewhere in California. 

As for unemployment, the county's 12.3 percent unemployment rate as of February is identical to the state's unemployment rate. Some areas in the county, likely the same ones with lower unemployment rates, are probably healthier than the county average, Fielding said. 

The county's overall size and lower graduation rates are likely indicators for why the county does not compare favorably with other urban counties. San Mateo County, which contains San Francisco, is the fifth most healthy county, Orange County is the sixth, and San Diego is 16th. 

Fielding said his major health concerns about the county are ones related to physical environment: A shortage of open space, pollution, and violent crime, all of which can be addressed, he noted.

Below are some of the specific category data for L.A. County. The "National Benchmark" category refers to the top 10 percent of residents nationwide, meaning it is a snapshot of the rankings of some of the healthiest people in the country.  The "Rank" category refers to L.A. County's ranking compared to others in the state.

  Los Angeles
County Error
Margin National
Benchmark* California Rank
(of 56) Health Outcomes26Mortality21 Premature death6,009 5,956-6,061 5,564 6,128   Morbidity51 Poor or fair health22% 21-23% 10% 18%   Poor physical health days3.9 3.6-4.1 2.6 3.7   Poor mental health days3.7 3.5-3.9 2.3 3.6   Low birthweight7.1% 7.0-7.1% 6.0% 6.7%   Health Factors38Health Behaviors18 Adult smoking15% 14-16% 15% 15%   Adult obesity21% 19-23% 25% 23%   Excessive drinking16% 15-17% 8% 17%   Motor vehicle crash death rate10 9-10 12 12   Sexually transmitted infections474   83 407   Teen birth rate41 41-41 22 40   Clinical Care53 Uninsured adults28% 27-29% 13% 24%   Primary care providers884:1   631:1 847:1   Preventable hospital stays69 69-70 52 59   Diabetic screening73% 71-74% 89% 77%   Mammography screening53% 52-54% 74% 59%   Social & Economic Factors42 High school graduation60%   92% 71%   Some college55%   68% 59%   Unemployment11.6% 11.6-11.6% 5.3% 11.4%   Children in poverty22% 21-23% 11% 19%   Inadequate social support30% 28-31% 14% 26%   Single-parent households33%   20% 30%   Violent crime rate637   100 520   Physical Environment50 Air pollution-particulate matter days22   0 16   Air pollution-ozone days79   0 51   Access to healthy foods90%   92% 79%   Access to recreational facilities7   17 9

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