Healthy Choices

Sacramento County health report highlights STD’s, infant mortality, chronic disease

Sacramento’s over-60 population has increased by 54 percent in the last decade, and Latino residents are living longer than any other group, according to Sacramento County’s latest Community Health Status Report.

The report, released Wednesday, also confirms an ongoing problem of sexually transmitted diseases among teens and young adults, and sheds light on the high rate of infant mortality among African American babies, which is nearly triple that of their white counterparts.

The county public health office’s 75-page study is an update for residents on their communal mental and physical health standings, based on data compiled between 2002 and 2013. It marks the kick-off to the “mobilizing action through partnership and planning initiative,” an 18-month project in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aimed at improving the county’s health system on the ground level.

For County Public Health Officer Olivia Kasirye, that means identifying the spikes in Sacramento’s health numbers and working with community organizations to find solutions.

“It’s not just the county government doing the intervention – it’s the entire community taking ownership of this,” she said. “It will take the entire community coming together and doing their piece to see if we can turn around the trends we’re seeing.”

One of the trends she’s referenced is the high rate of sexually transmitted disease (STD) in Sacramento’s young adult population. Chlamydia was the most commonly reported communicable disease in the county in 2012, showing a 43 percent increase in cases since 2003 and a rate 29 percent higher than the state’s. Gonorrhea shows similar patterns, with a 12 percent increase over the nine-year period and a rate that’s a whopping 67 percent higher than in California on the whole. For both diseases, the bulk of cases are in females age 15 to 24.

As the trend came to light in recent years, the county has hired additional staff and formed a group explicitly focused on STD education, said Kasirye.

The leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24 in 2011 was accidents, most of which were vehicle-related, followed by homicides and suicides.

On the teen pregnancy front, birthrates for teens aged 15 to 19 dropped 25 percent in the past decade and showed a decline in ethnic groups across the board. However, birth rates for Latino and African American teens were still more than two times higher than those of white teens in 2011.

The study also reveals neighborhood health trends by breaking data down by ZIP code. One map shows elevated rates of diabetes deaths in south Sacramento. Others highlight particularly severe heart disease, stroke and chronic lower respiratory disease rates in Carmichael. Life expectancy in 2012 ranged from 72 to 77 in south Sacramento to pockets of 91 to 109 in North Natomas.

Sacramento County’s overall life expectancy rose 2.4 percent over the 10-year span, from 77.6 years to 79.5 years. This measure increased for all racial groups but particularly for Latino residents, who in 2011 had a life expectancy of 87.7 years – a 4.7 percent increase since 2002. On average, Latinos residents live 13.9 more years than African Americans, 9.1 more years than whites and 3.6 more years than Asians and Pacific Islanders.

From 2003 to 2013, the county saw a 54 percent increase in the number of people over age 60.

“It keeps coming up that we’ll have a much larger proportion of people who are retired or aging, and we need to prepare for that,” Kasirye said. “We need to make sure our environment is safe for them. We need to make sure there are fall-prevention programs out there, and that they have some means of transportation.”

In 2011, the two leading causes of death for Sacramento residents over 65 were cancer and heart disease.

When it comes to infant mortality, rates have declined by 6 percent in the county on the whole between 2002 and 2011. But the study raises concerns about African American infants, who died at a rate two to three times higher than all other infants born in the county during that period.

That trend is due to a number of causes, including a lack of prenatal care in that population, Kasirye said.

A portion of the study showed that 72 percent of African American mothers received first trimester prenatal care in 2011, a decrease from the 76 percent who did in 2002. That’s compared to 82 percent of white mothers receiving that care in 2011. The county recently formed a blue ribbon commission explicitly focused on reducing African American child deaths, Kasirye said.

The status reports can be helpful to health advocates deciding where to create or expand programming, said Raquel Simental, public affairs director for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte in midtown. Support groups and educational sessions through her network help connect mothers, particularly teen mothers, to prenatal care and educate them about positive birth outcomes.

“We use this data to communicate the need to funders that there are gaps to be filled in the community,” she said. “If there’s a population that needs more education – whether it’s infant mortality or STD rates – the meaningful data can assist us in those efforts.”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Sacramento's over-60 population has more than doubled in the last decade. That population increased by 54 percent between 2003 and 2013, according to the report.

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