Report Spotlights Health and Social Disparities in OC

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Overall, Orange County is in good health compared to other counties, but there are still wide health disparities within county lines depending on age, race, ethnicity and geography, according to the Health Care Agency’s most recent comprehensive report on health indicators.

Consider that the county’s obesity rate is 23.8 percent, which is lower than the state’s and the nation’s. And yet obesity affects some populations disproportionately inside Orange County, where some 39.8 percent of Latina woman are obese.

Disparities are also acute when it comes to matters such as employment and childhood vaccinations. The unemployment rate in Aliso Viejo is 3 percent, while in Stanton it is 9.3 percent. Only 75 percent of kindergarteners in the Capistrano Unified School District have been vaccinated compared to 97.5 percent in the Anaheim City School District.

These findings are among 70 measurements of health in the Health Care Agency’s annual report, which also includes not only traditional indicators such as infant mortality and life expectancy but also social factors such as crime, employment and level of education.

“Many times Orange County is ranked as one of the healthiest in California, but we wanted to break it down by race, age and ethnicity to see disparities,” said Helene Calvet, deputy health officer at the agency. In general, the report confirms that wealth confers health advantages in some areas.

“People affected by poverty have higher rates of chronic disease like obesity, diabetes and hypertension,” Calvet said.

But the report also highlights another concern, the county’s aging population and related health challenges.

“One thing we found that shocked me was to see the Alzheimer’s disease outcomes,” Calvet said. “That’s the only cause of death that has increased instead of decreased over the years.” In 2001, the death rate due to Alzheimer’s was about the same as California’s and the nation’s, but Orange County has slipped ahead, she said.

Here is a rundown of the report’s findings:

  • Ladera Ranch had the highest life expectancy, 84.5 years, and Orange had lowest, 79.4 years.
  • Among ethnicities, Latinas had the highest rate of women in poverty at 20.9 percent, with the rate among whites the lowest at 6.9 percent.
  • Santa Ana had 21.1 percent of its population living under the poverty level, the highest in the county. Yorba Linda had the lowest level at 3 percent.
  • Among ethnicities, 30.8 percent of Latinos live in crowded households, the highest percentage in he county. Pacific Islanders had the second-highest rate of crowded living at 20.8 percent. Meanwhile, 1.5 percent whites live in such conditions.
  • Asians and Pacific Islanders have the highest rate of gestational diabetes (diabetes faced by an expectant mother) at 10.7 percent. Whites had the lowest, at 5.4 percent.

The report can be read here.

Amy DePaul is a Voice of OC contributing writer and lecturer in the UC Irvine literary journalism program. You can reach her directly at depaula@uci.edu

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