Wealth equals health in California

WASHINGTON, D.C.
April 4, 2012 5:04am
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•  New study says healthiest people live in wealthiest areas

•  ‘Much of what influences our health happens outside of the doctor’s office’


Which comes first – health or wealth? While a new study doesn’t answer that question, it does show a strong tie between those who live in the wealthiest counties and who have the bedst health.

More than 3,000 counties and the District of Columbia were studied by researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to produce the 2012 County Health Rankings, an annual check-up that highlights the healthiest and least healthy counties in every state, as well as those factors that influence health, outside of the doctor’s office.

The rankings highlight the importance of critical factors such as education rates, income levels, and access to healthy foods, as well as access to medical care, in influencing how long and how well people live, the Foundation says.

(For in-depth information, use the study’s calculators at the link at the end of this story.)

Here are some of the Central Valley’s highlights, these examining the critical issue of diabetes in relationship to education and income, presented in the study’s words:

• In Kern County, if 2 percent more people attended some college and 2 percent more had an income higher than twice the federal poverty level we could expect to save 125 lives, prevent 811 cases of diabetes, and eliminate $5.8 Million in diabetes costs every year.

• In Kings County, if 5 percent more people attended some college and 4 percent more had an income higher than twice the federal poverty level we could expect to save 46 lives, prevent 316 cases of diabetes, and eliminate $2.1 Million in diabetes costs every year.

• In Tulare County, if 5 percent more people attended some college and 4 percent more had an income higher than twice the federal poverty level we could expect to save 168 lives, prevent 1,200 cases of diabetes, and eliminate $7.8 Million in diabetes costs every year.

• In Fresno County, if 5 percent more people attended some college and 4 percent more had an income higher than twice the federal poverty level we could expect to save 334 lives, prevent 2,900 cases of diabetes, and eliminate $17.8 Million in diabetes costs every year.

• In Madera County, if 5 percent more people attended some college and 4 percent more had an income higher than twice the federal poverty level we could expect to save 46 lives, prevent 402 cases of diabetes, and eliminate $2.6 Million in diabetes costs every year.

• In Merced County, if 5 percent more people attended some college and 5 percent more had an income higher than twice the federal poverty level we could expect to save 78 lives, prevent 625 cases of diabetes, and eliminate $3.8 Million in diabetes costs every year.

• In Stanislaus County, if 5 percent more people attended some college and 3 percent more had an income higher than twice the federal poverty level we could expect to save 163 lives, prevent 1,300 cases of diabetes, and eliminate $8.9 Million in diabetes costs every year.

• In San Joaquin County, if 5 percent more people attended some college and 4 percent more had an income higher than twice the federal poverty level we could expect to save 257 lives, prevent 2,000 cases of diabetes, and eliminate $11.9 Million in diabetes costs every year.

• In Sacramento County, if 5 percent more people attended some college and 4 percent more had an income higher than twice the federal poverty level we could expect to save 452 lives, prevent 3,900 cases of diabetes, and eliminate $25 Million in diabetes costs every year.

• In Yolo County, if 5 percent more people attended some college and 4 percent more had an income higher than twice the federal poverty level we could expect to save 62 lives, prevent 560 cases of diabetes, and eliminate $3.1 Million in diabetes costs every year.

• In Yuba County, if 5 percent more people attended some college and 4 percent more had an income higher than twice the federal poverty level we could expect to save 31 lives, prevent 160 cases of diabetes, and eliminate $1 Million in diabetes costs every year.

• In Butte County, if 5 percent more people attended some college and 5 percent more had an income higher than twice the federal poverty level we could expect to save 96 lives, prevent 737 cases of diabetes, and eliminate $4.7 Million in diabetes costs every year.

In Marin County, which leads the state in education with 76 percent of its adult population with some college education (78 percent), if 5 percent more people attended some college and 3 percent more had an income higher than twice the federal poverty level “we could expect to save 62 lives, prevent 664 cases of diabetes, and eliminate $4.7 Million in diabetes costs every year,” the report says.

In Placer County, which leads the state the percent of adults with an income twice the federal poverty level (83 percent), “if 5 percent more people attended some college and 3 percent more had an income higher than twice the federal poverty level we could expect to save 90 lives, prevent 884 cases of diabetes, and eliminate $4.9 Million in diabetes costs every year,” the report says.

The numbers quickly add up. “If 5 percent more people attended some college and 4 percent more had an income higher than twice the federal poverty leve,” California as a whole “could expect to save 12,000 lives, prevent 122,000 cases of diabetes, and eliminate $874 Million in diabetes costs every year,” the report says.

Now in their third year, the rankings assess the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states, using a standard way to measure how healthy people are and how long they live. They consider factors that affect people’s health within four categories: health behavior, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment.

“The County Health Rankings show us that much of what influences our health happens outside of the doctor’s office. In fact, where we live, learn, work and play has a big role in determining how healthy we are and how long we live,” says Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “The good news is that businesses, health care providers, government, consumers and community leaders are already joining forces in communities across the nation to change some of the gaps that the rankings highlight.”

Within each state, even the healthiest counties have areas where they can improve, the report says.

Healthier counties (those where people live longer and have a better quality of life) have lower rates of smoking, physical inactivity, teen births, preventable hospital stays, unemployment, children in poverty, and violent crime and higher levels of education, social support, and access to primary care physicians, says the report.

But healthier counties are no more likely than unhealthy counties to have lower rates of excessive drinking or obesity or better access to healthy food options.

Across the nation, some factors that influence health, such as smoking, availability of primary care physicians, and social support, show highs and lows across all regions, says the report. Meanwhile other factors reflect some distinct regional patterns, such as:

• Excessive drinking rates are highest in the northern states.

• Rates of teen births, sexually transmitted infections, and children in poverty are highest across the southern states.

• Unemployment rates are lowest in the northeastern, Midwest, and central plains states.

• Motor vehicle crash deaths are lowest in the northeastern and upper Midwest states.

The rankings are based on the latest publicly-available data for each county and are unique local tools that every county can use to measure where its residents stand on multiple factors that influence health compared to other counties in their state. Residents also can see how their county measures up on indicators like diabetes screening by comparing their county’s rank against a national benchmark reflecting the top performing counties in the United States.

“After three years, we’ve learned that people across the entire nation want to know how the health of their county compares to others in their state. This annual check-up helps bring county leaders together to see where they need to improve,” says Patrick Remington, professor and associate dean at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “It’s really exciting to see that the rankings continue to serve as a call to action to take steps to improve the health of communities.”

Drilldown

» For more information:  http://countyhealthcalculator.org/
» For more information:  www.countyhealthrankings.org/

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