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July 23, 2010 > Public Health Department releases Health Profile Report

Public Health Department releases Health Profile Report

Submitted By Gwen Mitchell

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department and the Community Benefits Coalition released the Santa Clara County Health Profile Report, which examines the health of county residents, on July 20. The report indicates Santa Clara County is a generally healthy county but there are some disparities with certain populations at greater risk of poor health and disease than others.

"While the report certainly contains good news, two areas are particularly troubling," said Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Ken Yeager. "The increase in obesity rates for children and adults and the continued decrease in health insurance coverage for our residents should raise alarm bells and serve as a call to action."

Additionally, some health factors that increase the risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes are on the rise. These chronic diseases are a major cause of death and disability in Santa Clara County, with heart disease and cancer accounting for more than half of all deaths, according to the report.

"This report will help us better understand some of the disparities so we can work with our community partners to reduce them," said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, health officer for Santa Clara County.

The good news is that fewer county residents are smoking, teen birth rates are falling, more children are immunized and more adults practice safe sex.

However, access to health care has declined in the past decade, risk factors that lead to chronic disease are increasing, obesity among teens remains high, the adult diabetes rate is up and air quality has declined in the past decade.

"Santa Clara County has continuously improved the health of our residents through programs and policy. Our efforts to reach into all communities must continue in order to be successful in reducing chronic disease and contributory factors," said Liz Kniss, County Supervisor and Chair of the Board's Health and Hospital Committee. "As we implement federal health care reform, I anticipate more of our residents will have health care coverage. However, the County is always here to serve those without resources. That is our Mission."

The report also shows some disparities in health outcomes. For instance, more Hispanics and African Americans are uninsured compared to overall county rates. While about 2 in 10 adults under age 65 did not have health insurance in 2009, more than 4 in 10 Hispanics and 3 in 10 African Americans were uninsured. In addition, while one-third of all adults did not have dental insurance, about half of Hispanics lacked insurance.

Health data is examined in 10 key areas: social determinants of health; mortality rates; healthcare access; maternal, infant and child health; oral health; lifestyle and behavioral risk factors; chronic diseases; communicable diseases; injury and violence; and healthy environments. Each area includes a number of health indicators that are examined by gender, age, race/ethnicity, income and education where possible.

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department is already working on a number of issues highlighted in the report. For example, Steps to a Healthier Santa Clara County is a federally funded program aimed at preventing chronic diseases. It is particularly focused on obesity, diabetes and asthma. The program is designed to reduce health disparities by reaching out to populations disproportionately affected by chronic disease.

Recently, the Department was awarded a $7M federal grant for tobacco prevention. Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the grant will fund efforts to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke, promote smoke-free colleges and campuses, develop multilingual and multicultural social marketing and media campaigns to counter pro-tobacco influences, promote smoke-free workplaces and public policies such as limited tobacco advertising and retail licenses to sell tobacco.

Part of the Champions for Change Network for a Healthy California, the Public Health Department is working with its community partners to promote healthy eating and physical activity through public education campaigns and local activities. For example, the current Soda-Free Summer campaign is designed to raise awareness about the health impacts of sugared-drinks like soda.

In addition, Santa Clara County has taken the lead on policy issues designed to reduce obesity and related chronic diseases, including requiring restaurants to include nutritional information on menus and banning toys with unhealthy children's meals.

To view the Santa Clara County Health Profile Report, visit

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