Central Valley Residents Face Limited Access to Health Care
Relative to other California counties, Central Valley residents have less access to physicians and other medical specialists, are more likely to die of diabetes and heart attacks, and face increased rates of poverty, according to a report released on Thursday, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Childhood asthma rates in El Dorado, Fresno, Yolo, Sutter and Yuba counties exceed the state average.
Yolo, Placer and Sacramento counties have the highest number of physicians per 1,000 residents in the Central Valley.
The report also found that smoking rates are declining among Central Valley residents. Some locations within the valley also are seeing increases in child immunizations and drops in heart disease.
The report defined the Central Valley as the 18-county region spanning from Shasta County in the north to Kern County in the south (Nguyen, Sacramento Bee, 5/9).
Researchers for the report, titled "The State of the Great Central Valley: Public Health and Access to Care," assessed more than 24 health care indicators, including health insurance coverage, number of physicians per 1,000 residents, infants' birthweight and childhood asthma rates. The findings were based on state and national data, as well as the California Health Interview Survey, which is conducted every two years.
The Great Valley Center published the report.
The report outlined findings for different areas within the Central Valley. Highlights are provided below.
Researchers found that Sacramento County has:
- The lowest rate of uninsured residents statewide;
- The highest number of infants in the region born weighing less than 5.5 pounds; and
- Heart disease and asthma rates that exceed the state average.
San Joaquin Valley
According to the report, the San Joaquin Valley has 87 physicians per 100,000 residents, compared to 154 for Southern California, 120 for Northern California and a state average of 126 physicians per 100,000 residents.
Access to specialists for the San Joaquin Valley also lags behind the state average with 43 medical specialists per 100,000 people in the area, compared to 107 specialists per 100,000 Northern Californians and 86 per 100,000 residents in Southern California (Sacramento Bee, 5/9).
The report defined the San Joaquin Valley as Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tulare counties ("The State of the Great Central Valley: Public Health and Access to Care," Great Valley Center, May 2008).
David Hosley, president of the Great Valley Center, said the report shows that residents need to make more healthful lifestyle decisions and that it underscores the need for more to be done to address environmental factors that affect health.
Maria Pallavicini, professor and dean of the school of natural sciences at UC-Merced, said that locating a new UC medical school in the region could help address the physician shortage (Sacramento Bee, 5/9).
Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" on Friday reported on the report. The segment includes comments from Richard Cummings of the Great Valley Center (Weiss, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 5/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.