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How Does San Diego's Health Compare To Other California Counties?

How Does San Diego's Health Compare To Other California Counties?
Where does San Diego rank among California's healthiest counties? KPBS Health Reporter Kenny Goldberg breaks down recent report analyzing the health of communities across the nation.

Where does San Diego rank among California's healthiest counties? KPBS Health Reporter Kenny Goldberg breaks down recent report analyzing the health of communities across the nation.


Kenny Goldberg, KPBS Health Reporter


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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you are listening to These Days on KBPS. We are in the top 20, but not the top 10. A new survey that rates how healthy populations are across the state of California has San Diego County pretty high on the list, but this study certainly finds some room for improvement. And some reason to look to Northern California for inspiration. Joining me to help break down the numbers is my guest KBPS health reporter Kenny Goldberg. Good morning Kenny.

KENNY GOLDBERG: Good morning, Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So where does San Diego rank among California's healthiest counties?

KENNY GOLDBERG: We ranked 16, so it's not the top quarter but it's probably in the top fifth. I would have to say when you compare counties to counties we are much higher than Imperial County and higher than Los Angeles but we are way behind Orange County which ranked six healthiest of the state.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's interesting and who conducted the research?


KENNY GOLDBERG: This was done by the University of Wisconsin population health Institute and it's based on 27 different managers of health outcomes from low birth weight babies to adult smoking rates to access to healthy foods to teen birthrates are really takes in quite a few different measures of health.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So this study they went and compiled statistics about these various rankings and how many people smoked etc. and they came up with numbers for the counties in California. Remind us how many counties there are in California.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So being 16 is not that bad.

KENNY GOLDBERG: It's not that bad it's not that good. We like to think we are a healthy population when you look beneath the headline Little did you look at the numbers San Diego fell to 16 because it's got a fairly high obesity rate, 22% of the population is obese. It's got a very high rate of chlamydia among kids primarily and also syphilis cases among men. We've got 22% of the county is uninsured. And if that 17% of our children live in poverty, which is fairly high.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So all of those kinds of factors, not only STDs, but how many people are uninsured, that all went into the rankings.

KENNY GOLDBERG: That's right and another area which San Diego got penalized was air pollution number of days with high ozone levels that we have 38 days of high ozone levels last year when compared to them healthiest County in California, Marin, they had zero.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We did a lot worse than orange county proudly compared to LA County.

KENNY GOLDBERG: We are better than LA, they ranked 26th in the state and we are 16 so you have to say we beat LA.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What are some of the unhealthiest counties in California, Kenny?

KENNY GOLDBERG: They are in the northern part of the state, Trinity County way up north is the unhealthiest in the stadium primarily because they have a very high percentage of kids living in poverty. They have low access to healthy foods like farmers markets and they have a very high unemployment rate.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I see, and I would imagine that this comment seems to kind of connect some of the unhealthiest counties in California.

KENNY GOLDBERG: That's right, Del Norte County was another one right up there near Trinity. Some of those counties that there really shared some of these features that Trinity County has.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We often hear that Imperial County has a hard time coming up that Imperial County has a hard time. How did they do on the survey

KENNY GOLDBERG: They ranked 37 in the state which is not so great when you figure there are 56 counties in California so they are in the bottom half. They got docked for having a very high rate of teen pregnancy. That did not do, they didn't do well at all in that area. And they also suffered because of lack of access to healthy foods, things like that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I see. Sounds like the highest ranked counties in serving 10 to the wealthy. Would that be a fair thing to say?

KENNY GOLDBERG: That's right, and what you are implying is true, that a lot of this stuff is largely demographics. Marin County ranked number one in the state, the healthiest in the state and it is a very affluent county as you mentioned. And also, when you talk about affluence I mean they have a very low percentage of children living in poverty. Only 8% compared to 17% in San Diego for example and they have a lower unemployment rate, lower number of adults are uninsured. So it follows all the way down the line.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Speaking with KPBS health reporter Kenny Goldberg and we are talking about a new survey that's come out drinking the populations across the state of California in San Diego County ranked 16 healthiest County in California. Besides Kenny can you break it down at all besides the idea of the fact that a lot of wealthier counties have access to fresh fruits and have access to medical care and so forth are there things that we can actually learn from wealthier counties?

KENNY GOLDBERG: That's an interesting question. I mean, when you take a look at adult smoking rates for example they are uniformly low throughout the state because California as you note as a smoke-free workplace laws, you cannot smoke in restaurants now. Some counties even regulate outdoor smoking. So I'm not really sure. I mean, the adult obesity rate is lower in Kern County. I don't know what that is a function of whether that is affluence or not our people have more time to exercise or who knows. The report does not just lists percentages and the like it does have a whole section where it talks about policies that counties can adopt to try to improve the health of their populations.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Do they have any suggestions for us?

KENNY GOLDBERG: Not San Diego specifically but again, as I said one of the recommendations for places was to have smoke-free bars and restaurants.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Was it your understanding that reports like this are used to influence policy decisions, or do they sometimes just fall by the wayside?

KENNY GOLDBERG: I would have to say that they often fall by the wayside because politicians tend to be as they say, data resistant. So if there is something statistically that they do not like they can just discount it and choose to ignore it. But it is a good benchmark. This is the second annual report from the University of Wisconsin population health Institute and its very factual basis. So I would have to say as the years go by and they keep issuing these reports they will have some impact.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Did you get any feedback on this report, I wonder, Kenny from either the people you work with or the public? It does seem a little surprising that we don't rate a little higher in the survey.

KENNY GOLDBERG: Yes, it is surprising because we like to think we are very healthy here, but as we said when you look at some of the numbers we do have room for improvement. The violent crime rate for example is much higher than orange county and twice as high as Marin County. As I mentioned before the high unemployment rate, we also have a fairly low percentage of women on Medicare that get their annual mammograms. So these are some things that certainly could be improved.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: A lot of different factors go into this. Kenny I want to thank you so much. Thanks very much. KPBS health reporter Kenny Goldberg if you'd like to comment please go online to Days. You are listening to These Days on KPBS.