County rankings indicate where you live influences your health

1 Los Angeles

Los Angeles News & Search

1 News - 1 eMovies - 1 eMusic - 1 eBooks - 1 Search

Health rankings released Wednesday, March 29, show Orange County residents are among the healthiest Californians, while those living in Riverside, Los Angeles and especially San Bernardino counties aren’t faring nearly as well.

San Mateo County, whose 765,000 residents live on the San Francisco Peninsula between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, are the state’s healthiest, while Modoc County, population 8,800, in the state’s rural northeast corner ranked last.

Inhabitants of wealthy, coastal Orange County are seventh in terms of overall health outcomes, which are based on life spans and quality of life, or how healthy people feel.

Los Angeles and Riverside counties, at 25th and 28th respectively, sit in the top 50 percent.

But San Bernardino, ranking 46th, was among the bottom 25 percent, according to the 2017 County Health Rankings produced by the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The eighth annual county-by-county rankings, based primarily on 2008 through 2015 data, indicate that the places we call home can have a big impact on how long and well we live, according to the report’s authors.

“People have different opportunities to be healthy, based on where they live,” said Kate Konkle, who directs the Action Center Team for the Population Health Institute’s County Health Rankings & Roadmaps project.

The County Health Rankings look at 30 health factors that impact life spans and people’s quality of life, which is measured by the number of people in poor or fair health, the number of residents’ self-reported poor physical or mental health days, and low birth weights.

Health factors are a combination of:

• behaviors, such as tobacco use, alcoholism, sexually transmitted disease, diet/exercise and access to healthy food and exercise/recreation spaces

• quality of/access to medical care, including dental and mental health providers

• physical environment, including air/water pollution, commutes and housing costs/crowding

• socioeconomic factors, such as education, crime, income and family/social support

Population Health Institute staff members say the results prove that many elements impact how healthy people are.


“Health is more than health care. And it’s more than people making healthy decisions,” Konkle said. “And because of that, it then takes the whole community to create a healthy community.”

Southern California rankings

In terms of overall health, Orange County fell behind six Northern California counties. However, while Orange County residents ranked fifth in the state for longevity, their quality of life placed 18th, with San Diego and Ventura counties right behind.

Orange County, population 3.2 million, ranked eighth for overall health factors, with Northern California counties again ranking higher.

For health factors, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, with populations of 10 million, 2.4 million and 2.1 million respectively, fell even further behind, at 36th, 40th and 45th out of 58 counties.

Nearby Imperial County, at 57th, was worst out of all ranked counties. (Alpine County is too small to be ranked.)

The project’s ranking team also took a look at premature deaths and found more people are dying before age 75 across the nation.

Premature death rates began growing in 2012 and spiked from 2014 to 2015, rising most among people ages 15 to 44. Drug overdoses were the primary culprit, but those under 25 were even more likely to die from car crashes, suicides and shootings.

In California, 42 counties saw a drop in premature deaths from 1997 to 2014, three counties saw increases and the rest stayed the same.

County demographics charts, available on the rankings’ website,, show premature death rates improving in all Southern California counties except Santa Barbara and Imperial.

Again, Orange County performed best, remaining well below the national and state average.

Riverside County dropped way below the national average and is approaching California’s average. Los Angeles County’s premature death rate dropped below California’s by a small amount.

San Bernardino’s rate has improved to sit just below the national average, but still far above the state average.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Population Health Institute put the results online so residents, health care practitioners and community leaders can see how opportunities, conditions and programs or policies impact people’s health.

The website includes an online Action Center that guides communities through need assessments, choosing effective policies and programs, and advocacy campaigns.

Health outcomes differ if you live in a safe, walkable and bike-friendly neighborhood with markets selling fresh fruits and vegetables or in a crime-ridden area where there are only convenience stores and fast-food restaurants, Konkle said.

“We want to help people see that health is local, and see what’s happening in their communities so they can see where they can make change(s) to improve health,” she added.

1 Los Angeles

Los Angeles News & Search

1 News - 1 eMovies - 1 eMusic - 1 eBooks - 1 Search

Leave a Reply