Supervisors Kill Grant Application for Obesity, Smoking Prevention

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The Orange County Board of Supervisors Tuesday killed a plan by county health officials to apply for a five-year, $10-million federal grant for health programs, including those that reduce obesity and smoking.

Supervisors Janet Nguyen and Bill Campbell supported the application; supervisors Pat Bates and John Moorlach opposed it. Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who spoke against the application last week, left the meeting before the vote. The grant proposal needed three votes for approval.

When the proposed application from the county Health Care Agency first came before the board last week, Nelson and Bates derided it as part of “Obamacare,” the name opponents use to describe the new national health plan.

Tuesday Bates said there were many state and federal programs aimed at curbing obesity and stopping smoking but no way to determine which were effective.

She said the “redundancy” in programs “needs to be thoroughly reviewed.”

Moorlach said federal officials shouldn’t be offering these kinds of grants at the same time they’re trying to raise the national debt ceiling. Information about the hazards of smoking and obesity are generally available from television and other media, he said.

Nguyen urged her colleagues to at least allow health officials to apply for the grant, saying the board still could turn it town if the county was awarded the money. If the $10 million doesn’t go to Orange County, it’s going to be awarded to another county, she said.

Campbell, speaking directly to Bates, said it was an opportunity for Orange County to design programs that specifically addressed her concerns and did not duplicate other work.

Nguyen added that it’s possible to tailor the grant to specific areas of the county. Areas with high concentrations of smokers could receive one program while areas with obesity problems, like the park-poor sections of Nelson’s and her districts, could receive another.

County health officials, in person and in a staff report, assured the supervisors that the grant doesn’t “provide for expansion of health insurance or health care coverage.”

From the report:

 

  • Sixty percent of deaths in Orange County are a result of heart disease, cancer and stroke, much of which results from preventable chronic disease.

 

  • Nearly 60 percent of Orange County residents are overweight or obese.

 

  • One in three people born in the United States in 2000 are expected to develop diabetes in their lifetimes. For Latinos and African Americans, that rate is one in two.

 

  • With a nationally estimated annual cost of $1,429 in avoidable health care costs per obese individual, obesity in Orange County results in more than $800 million in avoidable healthcare costs annually.

 

  • The adult smoking rate has dropped to 9 percent in Orange County, but the youth rate has started to increase again and is at 14.6 percent. In some school districts it is much higher, most notably Capistrano Unified at 22 percent and Laguna Beach 17 percent.

 

— TRACY WOOD

 

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