Tulare County ranks low for healthy living
By Reggie Elllis
tulare county – When it comes to overall health and wellness, Tulare County is among the worst places to live in California and in the country. Tulare County consistently fell to the bottom of the list in a ranking of 57 California counties based on the health of its residents.
Compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the rankings looked at 35 aspects of overall health in six categories. Tulare County’s ranking in each category is as follows: Length of Life (39); Quality of Life (55); Health Behaviors (55); Clinical Care (54); Social and Economic Factors (54); and Physical Environment (53).
According to the 2017 report, one-third of adults are obese in Tulare County, which is a 15-year-high, compared with 28% of adults across the country and just 23% across the state. One quarter of Tulare County adults rated their health as poor or fair. While adult obesity rates have been on a slight decline statewide and nationwide since 2011, it has been climbing in Tulare County for that same period. Conversely, physical inactivity in Tulare County has risen to meet the rest of Unite States but is 5% higher than the rest of the state. Tulare County has also seen a sharp increase in the number of sexually transmitted infections since 2011, with a slight drop off between 2013-2014. Tulare County is 11% higher than both the country and California in the number of infections reported for 2014, the last year that data was compiled. There are also about half as many dentists and doctors per capita in Tulare County than the rest of the nation.
One-third of children live in poverty which is 15% more than the country and state, and one-third also live in single-parent households. A quarter of adults reported having severe housing problems and long commutes alone.
Dr. Karen Haught, Tulare County’s Health Officer, noted that the report brings attention to policies and actions from many different sectors but that there are many challenges to health in the Central Valley. “Some of these factors in this report are more complex to address, such as poverty, but progressive improvement can be made. The use of the ranking concept misses the fact that there are areas where significant improvements have occurred.”
Dr. Haught pointed out that the number of uninsured has greatly decreased since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and is even lower now than the number from 2014 which was used in this report. Premature death rates in Tulare County have almost fallen in line with the rest of the country but remain 4% higher than California. Part of the reason is that deaths to alcohol-impaired driving are 10% lower than the national average and 8% lower than the rest of California. Tulare County’s density of air pollution improved by one-third but remained significantly higher than the state and country and all of the data was compiled prior to the severe drought.
Preventable hospital stays decreased sharply from 2011-2014 bringing Tulare County in line with the national average but about 28%. Graduation rates in Tulare County are above the state and national average at 87% in 2013-14, the last year that all three could be compared. Unfortunately, less Tulare County residents are able to obtain jobs with their diploma. From 2002-2015, Tulare County’s unemployment rate was consistently double the national average and significantly higher than the rest of California.
Tulare County residents are more likely to be victims of a violent crime than the rest of the country and California, but that gap is narrowing. Violent crimes dropped by one-third from 2004-2013, just 8% higher than the rest of the state.
Dr. Haught said many different sectors across the county have recently carried out a Community Health Assessment and are developing a Community Health Improvement Plan.
“This plan will guide our collaborative work on priority issues over the next five years,” Dr. Haught said. “We look forward to working together to implement this plan and for everyone in Tulare County has the opportunity to live a healthy life.”
To see the entire ranking, visit www.countyhealthrankings.org.