California Healthline Daily Edition

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Growth of L.A. Aging Population To Pose Health Care Challenges

Los Angeles County's aging population increasingly faces barriers to care, according to a report published Monday by the University of Southern California's Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging, HealthyCal reports. The findings could indicate a national trend, according to HealthyCal.

Findings

According to the report, nearly 25% of all adults in Los Angeles County lack a regular source of medical care, while more than 30% have difficulty accessing care (Perry, HealthyCal, 9/14).

About 20% of adults over age 50 in the county rate their health as fair or poor.

In addition:

  • Among older Latinos, 36% had arthritis, 25% had diabetes and 52% had hypertension;
  • Among older blacks, 45% had arthritis, 18% had diabetes and 62% had hypertension;
  • Among older Asians, 28% had arthritis, 18% had diabetes and 46% had hypertension; and
  • Among older whites, 42% had arthritis, 13% had diabetes and 46% had hypertension (USC report, September 2015).

Meanwhile, the report found disparities in access to providers, particularly among Los Angeles' eight service planning areas. For example, the:

  • West SPA had 1,100 physicians per 100,000 residents; and
  • South SPA had 49 physicians per 100,000 residents.

William Vega, director of the USC Institute on Aging, said there is a shortage of providers in Los Angeles County in part because "medical schools are grossly under-producing either primary care physicians or specialists in these areas."

Implications

The report predicts that health planners likely will face significant challenges as the area's aging population grows (HealthyCal, 9/14).

The report found that Los Angeles County's population of individuals at least 50 years old is projected to grow by nearly 40% in the next 20 years. Meanwhile, the county's aging Latino population is estimated to grow by about 82% in the same period.

Vega said the growth trend likely will have significant health implications.

Vega also said that the high population growth among aging Latinos could have serious implications related to diabetes, noting that nearly one-third of Latinos ages 65 and older have the disease (O'Neill, "KPCC News," KPCC, 9/14).

The report did not include recommendations, but Vega said that Los Angeles County should:

  • Encourage self-managing health conditions; and
  • Move toward patient-centered medical homes (HealthyCal, 9/14).
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