Shasta County residents are more likely to breathe clean air, get preventive health screenings and graduate from high school than people statewide, but they’re also more likely to smoke, live in poverty and lack access to healthy foods, according to a comprehensive health report released this week.
The second annual County Health Rankings, created by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, ranks the overall health of counties across America by measuring how healthy people are and how long they live. The report shows how the places where people live, learn, work and play influence health just as much as regular medical care.
“This helps us see what is making our residents sick and where we need to improve,” said Shasta County Public Health Officer Andrew Deckert, MD, MPH. “It’s more than just a report on our rates of birth, death and disease. It starts to get at the heart of what truly makes us healthy.”
Of the 56 counties ranked in California, Shasta County ranked 42nd in overall health, measured by:
- Rate of people dying before age 75
- Percent of people who report being in fair or poor health
- Number of days people report being in poor physical health
- Number of days people report being in poor mental health
- Rate of low-birthweight infants
However, Shasta County rose to 36th out of 56 when measuring these factors, which also affect people’s health:
- Health behavior
- Clinical care
- Social and economic factors
- Physical environment
“Much of what influences our health happens outside the doctor’s office, like our levels of education, our income, access to healthy foods and freedom to breathe smoke-free air,” Deckert said.
Some highlights from the report include:
- Shasta County exceeds the state average when it comes to diabetic screening and mammograms (though it falls short of the national benchmark on both).
- Shasta County also has more students graduating from high school, though its unemployment rate and number of children in poverty is higher.
- Air pollution is dramatically lower than the state average, but Shasta County residents aren’t nearly as likely to have access to healthy foods.
- Shasta County has a much lower rate of sexually transmitted infections, and its teen birth rate is on par with the state. However, Shasta has a high rate of obesity, excessive drinking, car crashes and smoking.
Efforts to combat some of these issues – such as tobacco use – are under way locally. Whiskeytown National Recreation Area adopted smoke-free beaches last summer, and more than 200 Shasta County businesses prohibit smoking within 20 feet of their entryways. More than half of the area’s major events have smoke-free guidelines. The Redding Library, Redding City Hall and Mercy Medical Center are 100 percent smoke free.
The Healthy Shasta movement (www.healthyshasta.org) provides local walking and bicycling guides, healthy recipes, gardening toolkits and more to encourage residents to eat well and be active. The collaborative of more than 20 local organizations promotes a community where “the healthy choice is the easy choice.”
“People who live in healthy communities find it easier to live healthy lifestyles,” Deckert said. “People in communities with smoke-free laws are less likely to smoke, which reduces diseases caused by tobacco. People who live in places with lots of walking paths are more likely to be active, and those living in places with easy access to fresh foods are more likely to eat nutritiously.”
Last April, Shasta County Health and Human Services hosted “The Roots of Our Health” leadership summit, which sparked ongoing discussions about some of the social conditions that make a community healthy: Early childhood development, high school graduation and college-going rates, and economic and workforce development. To learn more about these endeavors or to join a workgroup, call Charlene Ramont at 229-8219 or visit the “Roots of Our Health” page on Facebook.
“People from public health, health care, business, education and government sectors increasingly understand the factors that influence the health of our community, so we can work together to create community conditions that help people lead healthier lives,” said Shasta County Public Health Director Donnell Ewert.
-from Healthy Shasta press release
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