HEALTH GOALS 2000: Orange, Kern Counties Look Good
The Los Angeles Times reports that "Orange County residents are healthier than Californians as a whole and had lower rates of teen pregnancy and AIDS cases." According to a new county-by-county report on health status, Orange County outperformed the state at large in every category of the survey except in the rate of low birth weights. But even in that category, it "outperformed all of the state's eight other major urban counties." The county ranked third lowest in California in deaths from motor vehicle crashes, breast cancer deaths, lung cancer deaths, AIDS cases, teen pregnancies and five other categories. The county fell below national health targets in deaths from stroke and illegal drug use, and incidence of tuberculosis and measles, but in "those areas, the county mimics the state's relatively poor showing as measured against the national targets," as 32 counties fell short of national goals in drug deaths and 23 fell short of goals for stroke deaths. Orange County's strong performance on health goals has been previously attributed to the relative well-being of its 2.6 million residents, "demographics and relatively good access to health care." Jon Gilwee, vice president of the Healthcare Association of Orange County, said, "You would expect that the county would be able to do better on many measures, but it doesn't negate the fact that we do have pockets of community problems that we need to deal with here. This addresses averages, but there are many ingredients to averages, and some of them need improvement" (Warren, 4/7).
Kern County, by contrast, is "improving on certain levels, but overall Kern is under the weather when compared with other California counties." Kern met only five of the 20 national goals -- those for lung cancer, breast cancer, AIDS and syphilis. On the other hand, its infant mortality rate, birth weight and prenatal care averages languished toward the bottom of California counties. County Health Director B.A. Jinadu said improving the numbers "has to do with schools, families and churches. We want to make sure that the child that is coming is prepared for properly, and once that child is born, it is born healthy. It's something that we need to really make sure our society and community get a handle on" (Terwilleger, Bakersfield Californian, 4/5).