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Report: CA's Healthiest and Unhealthiest Counties

PHOTO: Counties in the San Joaquin Valley again rank as some of the unhealthiest in the state according to the fifth annual County Health Rankings report by the Robert Wood Foundation and the University of Wisconsin. Photo credit: Kern County Farm Bureau.
PHOTO: Counties in the San Joaquin Valley again rank as some of the unhealthiest in the state according to the fifth annual County Health Rankings report by the Robert Wood Foundation and the University of Wisconsin. Photo credit: Kern County Farm Bureau.
March 26, 2014

People in the San Joaquin Valley are living in some of the unhealthiest counties in the state, according to a new report.

The fifth annual "County Health Rankings" report puts Fresno, Kern and Stanislaus counties near the bottom when it comes to factors such as smoking, employment, physical activity and access to healthy foods.

Despite the poor showing, said Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez, she's actually encouraged by the report - because it allows communities to see the unique health problems they face and create local solutions.

"While we have a long way to go, and I recognize that, the conversation keeps happening," she said. "We're implementing some of these ordinances, working closely to think about ways in which transportation corridors can be improved, and that living can be conducive to what humans really need."

Paul Zykofsky, associate director of the Local Government Commission, said the report emphasizes that where people live has an impact on their health and that changes made in those communities can improve the lives of their residents.

"We often don't factor that into the health discussion," he said, "but the environments in which people live have significant impact on whether they have access to all the things that make it possible for them to lead healthy lives."

Zykofsky said the rankings show that creating environments in which people have healthy choices - such as recreation centers, bicycle and pedestrian-oriented streets and safe routes to schools - can help communities promote better health.

This year's report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin also analyzed housing and transportation factors. San Francisco Bay Area counties again ranked at the top of the list.

The report is online at countyhealthrankings.org.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA