Yolo County maintained its fifth-place spot in California county health rankings released this week by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin.
For the second year in a row, Yolo was ranked fifth out of California’s 58 counties, trailing only Marin, Placer, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
But the county won’t be resting on its laurels, said Yolo County Health Officer Constance Caldwell.
“There are areas … in which we could improve,” Caldwell said in a statement Tuesday.
Specifically, she noted, 17 percent of county residents lack health insurance, something that may or may not change with implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and the county has just one dentist for every 2,100 residents.
Meanwhile, 18 percent of residents experience food insecurity.
The rankings are based on 25 health outcomes, including morbidity and mortality, as well as factors involving healthy behaviors, availability of medical, mental health and dental care, social and economic factors and environmental factors like air quality.
Yolo County scored well in several areas, including low rates of premature deaths, underweight babies, teen births and infant and child deaths. The county also had an adult smoking rate of 8 percent — compared to the state average of 13 percent — and a lower violent crime rate than the state average.
Caldwell noted that the health rankings, while useful, should be taken with some caveats. The data, she said, is two years old in some cases, so while the 2014 report indicates an unemployment rate of 11.5 percent, for example, the most recent numbers put it at 9.3 percent and dropping.
“Most importantly, the data does not show variations between communities,” Caldwell said, “and certainly in Yolo County, significant disparities among our communities continue to exist.”
By the numbers
Other statistics noted by Caldwell:
* 18 percent of Yolo County’s children live in poverty, according to county health rankings, although the most recent estimate from the U.S. Census shows a slight improvement at 16.4 percent;
* Binge drinking remains high, at 19 percent of the adult population;
* Sexually transmitted infections are lower than the state average, but still very high. Locally collected data show increasing trends since 2010; and
* Obesity remains high, at about one in four adults in Yolo County — slightly above the state average and a trend that has not improved in recent years.
Caldwell said the county health department continues to work on efforts to decrease obesity and improve physical activity through nutrition programs.
Additionally, she said, “We recently expanded our tobacco education program that focuses on teens in an effort to stop smoking before it starts.
“And, we are engaged in a countywide community health assessment that will result in a Community Health Improvement Plan to guide the department’s activities in the coming years,” she said.
That assessment will be the subject of a series of public meetings throughout April, including one in Davis on Wednesday, April 23, from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Stephens Branch Library, 315 E. 14th St. Other public meetings will be held throughout the county. See where and when by visiting http://www.yolocounty.org/health-human-services/health-department/healthy-yolo.
The Community Health Assessment, which was actually compiled from information gathered through four community assessments, is available for public review at http://www.yolocounty.org/health-human-services/health-department/healthy-yolo/community-health-assessment.
In creating the assessment, officials divided the county into seven separate regions, intended to better address geographic and demographic differences throughout the county.
The regions are:
* The central region, which includes the city of Woodland and the surrounding areas;
* The east region, which includes West Sacramento and the area running north along the Sacramento River;
* The northeast region, which includes the towns of Dunnigan, Zamora, Yolo and Knights Landing;
* The northwest region, which stretches up the Capay Valley and includes all of the towns therein;
* The south region, which includes the city of Davis and El Macero;
* The southeast region, which includes Clarksburg and the surrounding areas; and
* The southwest region, which includes the city of Winters and surrounding areas.
The completed assessment provides an interesting look at Yolo County demographics, including:
* Yolo County has more whites and fewer African-Americans than the statewide average. Less than 30 percent of Yolo’s population is Hispanic/Latino, compared to 37 percent statewide;
* The county’s Hispanic/Latino population is highest is the southwest (51 percent), and lowest in the south (14 percent) and southeast (22 percent);
* 20 percent of Yolo County public school students are classified as English language learners, 81 percent of whom are Spanish-speaking. Two-thirds of students in the Winters school district are English language learners;
* 19 percent of county residents live in households below the federal poverty level, 44,211 of whom are children. This is higher than the statewide rate of 14 percent;
* Regions exceeding the county rate for children in poverty are the northeast (41 percent), southeast (37 percent), east (27 percent) and southwest (19 percent). The northeast exceeds the county in all categories of those living in poverty;
* West Sacramento and Woodland have higher unemployment rates than the county as a whole, while Davis has a lower unemployment rate;
* An estimated 18 percent of Yolo County residents have “low food access,” meaning they live more than a mile from a large supermarket or grocery store in urban areas, or 10 miles in rural areas. This is greater than the statewide figure of 14 percent; and
* For children ages 0 to 17, the most common primary diagnosis in 2012 was for mental diseases and disorders:
about 17 percent — well above the statewide rate of 12 percent.
The assessment includes additional data on social and mental health; availability of health care and preventive services; health conditions and outcomes; and more.
Much of the data gleaned from the assessments will be presented at the upcoming community forums, where participants will be asked to help identify strategic issues or root causes of poor health outcomes.
County health officials will collect the input from community members and incorporate them into the final draft of the Healthy Yolo 2014 Community Health Assessment.
And just as the recently completed assessments show the disparity in health outcomes among different regions of Yolo County, so, too, did the county health rankings show big differences among different regions of California. The biggest difference can be seen between California’s healthiest county — Marin — and least healthy county — Lake.
According to the rankings, Lake has twice the unemployment rate and three times the number of kids living in poverty that Marin has. Lake has more than twice the percentage of smokers and almost twice the percentage of residents who are obese. Not surprisingly, Lake also experiences more than 2 ½ times the number of years lost to premature death than Marin.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at email@example.com or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy