WOODLAND — County supervisors this week heard the good, the bad and the ugly about the state of health among Yolo County residents when they received the county Health Council’s annual report on Tuesday.
Outgoing council chair Dr. Michael Wilkes told supervisors that overall, “things are going very well.”
“We’ve seen some amazing improvement in several things,” Wilkes said, citing a drop in the adult smoking rate, a decline in the teenage birth rate and high rates of breastfeeding and kindergarten immunizations among Yolo County residents.
But there was bad and ugly to report as well, including an increase in the teenage smoking rate, high numbers of suicides and attempted suicides, increased numbers of sexually transmitted diseases and higher rates of obesity among children.
The Health Council, made up of representatives of various local public and private health care providers, serves as an advisory panel to the Board of Supervisors, meeting monthly and collecting data. Wilkes has chaired the council for the past couple of years and now will be succeeded by Davis pediatrician Dr. Rick Baker. He and his colleagues on the council will have their work cut out for them in several areas.
Topping concerns is the high number of suicides and attempted suicides in Yolo County in recent years.
“We have more deaths from suicide than homicide,” Wilkes noted.
Hospital admissions for suicide and self-injury increased by 130 percent between 2008 and 2012, the council reported, and Wilkes noted that figure doesn’t include attempted suicides that did not result in hospitalization.
In all, there were 76 hospitalizations in Yolo County during 2012 for attempted suicide or self-injury, up from 33 in 2008.
The largest increase was seen in adolescents, Wilkes said, followed by those over the age of 65.
Reversing the trend, he said, “requires an educational outreach program … what are the signs and symptoms to look for?”
“The good news is we mostly have (that) through the schools,” Wilkes said, “(but) the elderly we should be connecting with. A lot of it is destigmatizing.”
Another mental health concern is an increase in hospitalization rates for mood disorders among women of child-bearing age.
According to the council’s report, the county’s rate of 1,119 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents is significantly higher than the state rate of 1,031, but the reason why remains unclear. The council has recommended that the county Department of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health focus where possible on reducing hospitalizations through the use of crisis personnel who can help stabilize someone in a mental health crisis without resorting to hospitalization.
Teen smoking continues to be an ongoing concern in Yolo County, with the rate having increased from 4.6 percent of teens smoking in 2003 to 15.1 percent in 2012, and increases in the sexually transmitted disease rates are also a concern.
For the latter, the Health Council has recommended that the county hire an outreach specialist for sex education and that the board consider a resolution calling on health care providers to routinely test both males and females for sexually transmitted diseases.
Noting the sharp increases in both the gonorrhea and chlamydia rates, Wilkes said, “Both are treatable … but both can go on and wreak havoc. The message here is these are preventable and we can really do something important to help people prevent these diseases.”
Yolo County is also experiencing an ongoing pertussis epidemic that Wilkes said may be the result of two things: a cyclical pattern of pertussis emerging every three to five years, as well as new evidence that the vaccine “is not as effective as we once thought.”
As far as immunizations in general, while the county immunization rate exceeds the state rate, there are, Wilkes said, “isolated islands of very low immunization rates and we have to figure out how to better educate moms and dads who send their kids to those particular schools.”
Finally, obesity continues to be a concern in Yolo County, with approximately 25 percent of adults and even more youths diagnosed as obese.
According to the council’s report, the percentage of students in grades 5, 7 and 9 who are overweight or obese continues to increase.
Looking at seventh-graders throughout the county, the council reported 30 percent were obese and another 14 percent overweight, but that varied from school district to school district.
In Davis, for example, 71 percent of students were at a healthy weight, followed by Winters with 67 percent.
But in Woodland and West Sacramento, only 48 percent of seventh-graders were at a healthy weight and in Esparto just 46 percent.
“In addition to other factors,” the report said, “obesity appears to correlate with low physical activity levels among school children.”
And the bad news about that: The percentage of children doing physical activity outside of school in 2012 was lower than in 2007, the council reported.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy