Clean bill of health for El Dorado County |

Clean bill of health for El Dorado County

Greg Risling

If El Dorado County was checked into a hospital, it would be cleared and released in a matter of hours.

The county is relatively a healthy entity, according to a recent report compiled by the public health department. “Measuring Our Health” gives a full examination to the county’s physical and mental well-being. The report compares 16 categories such as breast cancer, AIDS and infant mortality with other California counties. El Dorado fails to meet the state average in only three areas: suicide, death due to auto accidents and unintentional injuries.

The health department’s measuring stick is the objectives laid out by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Public Health Association. The agencies developed “Healthy People 2000,” a report that provides indicators for communities to gauge the health status of their residents.

“The main benefit of this report is that we are setting benchmarks that show if our efforts are having an impact on the community,” said Karl Halfman, a member of the Health Status Committee, which helped produce the report. “It also creates a dialogue between the policymakers and the community.”

In a primarily large and rural county, statistics indicating unhealthy trends could throw up a red flag but El Dorado ranks in the top half of the health categories. The county’s death rate between 1993 and 1995 was 11th among California’s 58 counties with an average of 393 deaths per 100,000 of the population. However, the county ranks 40th in suicide deaths and health officials cite inadequate treatment for mental disorders, alcohol and drug abuse and psychiatric disorders as contributing factors.

El Dorado reported only nine cases of AIDS deaths per 100,000 in the years that were polled, ranking 21st in the state. And, with prenatal care, the county ranked seventh with 23 mothers per 100 live births not receiving adequate assistance.

This is the first year that the county has published a report and currently is working on a second edition to be released late next year. The health committee will accumulate community input through meetings, focus groups and the reader comment sheet at the back of the report. The committee will also monitor the 17 classifications so that public health administrators can go beyond the statistics and prevent poor health standards. Halfman said understanding the factors that contribute to higher suicide rates or why 10 percent of the children in El Dorado live in poverty.

“We are going to delve more into the dynamics behind the stats,” Halfman said. “For instance, if our auto fatality rate is high it may be due to tourists on their way to Tahoe who don’t know how to navigate our roads well.

“We’ll look closely at the issues and develop programs.”

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