Placer County state’s second healthiest

Environment only category it isn’t in top 10
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County is the second healthiest county in the state, according to a recent study.
Only Marin County placed better than Placer County on the 2013 County Health Rankings compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. 
“I was very pleased that Placer County maintained its consistent leadership role in the state as far as providing healthy environments for children and families to live and thrive,” said Dr. Richard Burton, director of Placer County Health and Human Services. “It has consistently been in the top 10 counties in the state, and in recent years, the top five counties.”
The access to care in Placer County is one of the reasons why it ranks so highly. 
It boasts the lowest proportion of people younger than age 65 without health insurance – at 12 percent, matched only by Marin County – and there are more doctors and dentists relative to the population than most counties in the state.
For every 929 people living in Placer County, there is one primary care physician, whereas California’s overall ratio is 1,341 to 1. Similarly, for every 1,096 people there is one dentist, compared with 1,417 to 1 for California.
“I think Placer County over the years has developed a very robust delivery system with the greatest portion of that being delivered in the private sector,” Burton said.
The study breaks down the rankings into two main categories of health outcomes (mortality and morbidity) and health factors (behaviors, clinical care, social & economic factors and physical environment), and Placer County ranks second in California in both.
Placer County ranks in the top three of every subcategory except mortality (sixth) and physical environment (17th).
Physical environment weighs factors such as air pollution, drinking water safety, access to recreational facilities, limited access to healthy foods and fast food restaurants. Placer County is on par with the California average of 48 percent of its restaurants serving fast food – the only environmental area in which it is not better than the state average.
“We are still in the process of evaluating all the information reflected in the rankings before any specific decision about any recommendation for new interventions or new programs are made,” Burton said when asked about areas that needed improvement.
Sacramento County Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said the rankings provide a good “snapshot” of the heath status of communities.
“I think it provides a very good platform to beginning a discussion in the community about the importance of the environment and the living conditions that people are in and how important that is and how it contributes to a person’s health,” Kasirye said. “I think there’s a realization that we need to look beyond the individual. We need to look at the community.”
She said socioeconomic factors weigh heavily on the rankings, one reason Marin County frequently tops the charts.
Placer County ranks second in social & economic factors that for example weigh high school graduation (Placer County is at 91 percent; California is 76 percent) and violent crime rate (Placer County 230 per 100,000 population; California 472).
Jon Schultz can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews