A private health foundation study of the health and physical well-being of residents of counties nationwide ranked Los Angeles County in the middle of the pack of California counties, 26th out of the 56 counties that were surveyed.
The report was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and created by
the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The map on the right shows California county rankings, the whiter colors meaning higher rankings, and the greener shades lower. The full nation interactive map can be viewed here.
Jonathan Fielding, the head of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said he is not surprised by the ranking. Heavily urban areas tend to get lower rankings he said, as well as ones that have a more heterogeneous ethnic mix, he said. There is also a high correlation between poverty, high unemployment, income levels and poor health.
"People who don't graduate high school tend to have a shorter life span," Fielding said. "They tend to be less health literate, less likely to seek out preventive care and pursue a healthy lifestyle." He noted that L.A. County has a low graduation rate compared to elsewhere in California.
As for unemployment, the county's 12.3 percent unemployment rate as of February is identical to the state's unemployment rate. Some areas in the county, likely the same ones with lower unemployment rates, are probably healthier than the county average, Fielding said.
The county's overall size and lower graduation rates are likely indicators for why the county does not compare favorably with other urban counties. San Mateo County, which contains San Francisco, is the fifth most healthy county, Orange County is the sixth, and San Diego is 16th.
Fielding said his major health concerns about the county are ones related to physical environment: A shortage of open space, pollution, and violent crime, all of which can be addressed, he noted.
Below are some of the specific category data for L.A. County. The "National Benchmark" category refers to the top 10 percent of residents nationwide, meaning it is a snapshot of the rankings of some of the healthiest people in the country. The "Rank" category refers to L.A. County's ranking compared to others in the state.Los Angeles
Benchmark* California Rank
(of 56) Health Outcomes 26 Mortality 21 Premature death 6,009 5,956-6,061 5,564 6,128 Morbidity 51 Poor or fair health 22% 21-23% 10% 18% Poor physical health days 3.9 3.6-4.1 2.6 3.7 Poor mental health days 3.7 3.5-3.9 2.3 3.6 Low birthweight 7.1% 7.0-7.1% 6.0% 6.7% Health Factors 38 Health Behaviors 18 Adult smoking 15% 14-16% 15% 15% Adult obesity 21% 19-23% 25% 23% Excessive drinking 16% 15-17% 8% 17% Motor vehicle crash death rate 10 9-10 12 12 Sexually transmitted infections 474 83 407 Teen birth rate 41 41-41 22 40 Clinical Care 53 Uninsured adults 28% 27-29% 13% 24% Primary care providers 884:1 631:1 847:1 Preventable hospital stays 69 69-70 52 59 Diabetic screening 73% 71-74% 89% 77% Mammography screening 53% 52-54% 74% 59% Social & Economic Factors 42 High school graduation 60% 92% 71% Some college 55% 68% 59% Unemployment 11.6% 11.6-11.6% 5.3% 11.4% Children in poverty 22% 21-23% 11% 19% Inadequate social support 30% 28-31% 14% 26% Single-parent households 33% 20% 30% Violent crime rate 637 100 520 Physical Environment 50 Air pollution-particulate matter days 22 0 16 Air pollution-ozone days 79 0 51 Access to healthy foods 90% 92% 79% Access to recreational facilities 7 17 9