That is, at least according to big med’s Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is apparently ranking counties throughout the country. It’s a business venture for the Foundation, but it provides fodder for contemplation.
Recently Del Norte was down to one physician for the entire county, which figures into the RWJ ranking for access to health care. The survey also looked at obesity, smoking, exercise levels and the teen birth rate.
In addition to the effects of poverty caused primarily by cut-and-run timber liquidation and the decimation of California’s fishing industry, Del Norte’s overall health took an unfortunate dive in 1989 with the opening of Pelican Bay State Prison. Aside from the osmotic impacts of plopping such a horrific example of human cruelty into the middle of a tiny population, the families of some prisoners, and some guards, brought to Del Norte County particularly challenging home and neighborhood impacts that Social Services — and of course the families themselves — have been struggling to overcome ever since.
The bitter irony lies in the abject cleanliness of much of Del Norte County, which correlates with the region’s beauty, sparse population and isolation. But it’s not all milk and honey in our northwesternmost county. To wit:
Specifically, the RWJ survey stated:
“Poorly ranked counties often had multiple challenges to overcome, including:
Two- and three-fold higher rates of premature death, often from preventable conditions.
High smoking rates that lead to cancer, heart disease, bronchitis and emphysema.
High rates of obesity which can put people at risk for diabetes, disability and heart disease.
High unemployment and poverty rates.
High numbers of liquor stores and fast-food outlets but few places to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Humboldt County ranked 42nd healthiest out of California’s 56 counties. The survey ranked Siskiyou County second unhealtiest (55th), and Trinity County was fourth unhealthiest. One gets the feeling that, like Del Norte, there are some pretty healthy people in these counties, which see some enviable fitness levels and a rich availability of clean water, air and food.