ORANGE COUNTY: Officials Credit Demographics For Healthy Report Card
Santa Clara County and Orange County ranked highest in a statewide assessment of county health care delivery systems, according to a new statewide report card. Orange County Health Care Agency officials attributed the health of the county to the "area's affluence, demographics and relatively good access to health services." Acting Public Health Director Len Foster said, "We have more hospitals, more doctors and a more aware and educated population." The report compared illness and death statistics among counties as well as against state and national benchmarks between 1994 and 1996. Orange Country ranked among the top three counties in 19 of 25 indicators of health status. The Los Angeles Times reports that as one of the state's eight most populated counties, Orange County boasts the lowest rate of stroke deaths, the smallest percentage of low birthweight babies and the lowest infant mortality rate among African Americans. Pamela Austin, project director of the Orange County Health Needs Assessment, "echoed Foster's conclusions" on demographics, adding that the county's CalOPTIMA ensures access to primary care for the Medi-Cal populations. She said, "I think CalOPTIMA makes a big difference because some years ago, it was harder for that population to find a doctor who would accept Medi-Cal. Having that certainly helps tremendously, and it is (virtually) unique to Orange County" (Warren, Los Angeles Times, 1/12).
Blip On The Screen
The report card revealed "one troubling exception: Women [in Orange County] are getting breast cancer more often." Indeed, 20 out of every 100,000 women died of breast cancer between 1991 and 1996, a figure which exceeds the state average of 19.7, but falls below the national rate of 21. The Orange County Register reports that cancer specialists hypothesize that affluent areas have a higher incidence of breast cancer because more women postpone having children until their 30s, "a major risk factor for the disease" (1/12).