County Report Reveals Wide Disparities in OC’s Health

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The number of Santa Ana residents living in crowded conditions is 10 times the national average, according to a report released this week by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Nationwide, 3 percent of households have more than one person per room, while such conditions exist in 34 percent of Santa Ana households, according to the HCA’s Healthy Places, Healthy People report.

The annual report provides a detailed examination of a number of key environmental factors that contribute to a community’s overall health. Beyond crowded living conditions, the report includes factors like unemployment, poverty, graduation rates and park availability.

Overall, Orange County fares relatively well in several of the areas measured. The county’s poverty and unemployment rates are lower than both the national and state averages. High school graduation rates — even in the larger, urban cities of Santa Ana and Anaheim — are also better than the state average.

Here are some of the figures cited in the report:

  • Orange County’s child poverty rate is 13 percent, compared to 19 percent at both the state and national levels.
  • Orange County’s median household income of $73,849 is 45 percent higher than the national median of $51,369.
  • Eighty-eight percent of Orange County youths graduate from high school within four years, compared with 79 percent throughout California.
  • There is a wide disparity in Orange County when it comes to available parkland, with the cities of Stanton, Santa Ana, Garden Grove and Westminster having just one acre of parkland per 1,000 residents while Laguna Beach has 69 acres for every 1,000 residents.

While many of the report’s findings revealed many health disparities, none were as stark as the crowded living conditions figures. It is an issue that has long plagued several cities in the county and carries with it a number of dire health consequences.

Living in crowded housing is associated with poor school performance and behavioral problems among children and may also facilitate the spread of communicable diseases, such as respiratory infections and tuberculosis, the report said.

Specifically, it cited a study showing that children living in households with eight or more persons were twice as likely to develop pneumonia as those living in average-size households.

Research by the Kennedy Commission, a nonprofit housing organization serving Orange County, shows it is common in Santa Ana for five to seven people to share a one-bedroom apartment.

Overcrowded living spaces are also an issue in Westminster and Garden Grove, according to Mary Anne Foo, executive director of the Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance.

“People are living in garages and porches, with three families in a home,” said Foo. It’s not only immigrant families who are affected, Foo told Voice of OC last year. “No one can afford Orange County.”

— DAVID WASHBURN

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