CALIFORNIANS: Healthier Than Other Americans
Californians are healthier than other Americans, according to a new "study on regional differences of disease prevalence by Healthdemographics, a San Diego medical-research firm." The Wall Street Journal/California Edition reports that the study surveyed medical visits for each of four conditions -- heart disease, mental/behavioral disorders, HIV cases and cancer -- "in 320 metropolitan areas across the country, including 25 in California." The results indicated that California falls 18% below the national mean for heart disease and 8% below for HIV, while falling "exactly on the mean" for cancer visits. In examining the data geographically, San Jose had the lowest rate of heart disease visits, at 23% below the mean. Cancer visits were lowest in Merced at 29%. And HIV was lowest in Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Lompoc at 23% below. Healthdemographics also conducted a separate survey of people over age 65, in which different conditions were measured. The state scored high again, with diabetes occurrences below the national mean by 29%, and "arthritis, ulcers, cataracts, glaucoma and cerebrovascular conditions caused by stroke ... all less common by at least 9%." Visual impairment, while a common reason for a doctor visit, remained 5% below the national mean.
Wait, There's Bad News
The state did not fare well in the area of mental health and substance abuse visits. Medical visits for mental/behavioral disorders and substance abuse exceeded the national mean by 8%. The Journal notes that "San Francisco has the highest rate in the country on visits for such conditions, exceeding the national mean by 50%." In fact, the city performed poorly overall, with the "state's highest rate for medical visits for cancer, at 46% above the national mean, and for HIV, at 16% above the mean." Nonetheless, the survey paints a very good picture of health for the state, according to Paul LaBrec, director of data development for Healthdemographics. He said, "California and the West is the youngest region in the country. There are fewer smokers than elsewhere, and the population is health-conscious" (Hausman, 9/16).