A newly released Community Health Assessment highlights the strengths, challenges and differences in health among Napa County residents.
One of the most significant findings from the assessment was the disparity in health between whites and Latinos.
While the overall health status rating is very good in Napa County, Latino residents reported fair or poor health at nearly three times the frequency of Caucasian residents, according to the assessment.
A higher percentage of Latinos also were found to be living in poverty and had higher rates of unemployment.
Napa County’s public health officer, Dr. Karen Smith, said she was “disheartened” to see such stark differences between white and Latino residents.
“It shows us how much work we have to do to create equitable health outcomes for everybody in the county,” Smith said.
The assessment data also showed that while Napa has many safe neighborhoods in close proximity to parks, the county’s children have high rates of being overweight and obese. Particularly concerning is that nearly 40 percent of 5th, 7th and 9th graders are now overweight or obese, according to the assessment.
What makes weight loss challenging for many families is “time,” Smith said. Families may live near recreation areas, but if parents are working multiple jobs — or getting home late each night — there’s little time to make fresh, nutritious meals, or visit the park, she said.
“If it was as simple as providing opportunities for physical activities, we’d be golden,” Smith said.
Smith and other health officials in Napa County will be using the Community Health Assessment to create goals and strategies to improve overall fitness and well-being countywide.
According to the data, Napa County’s strengths include:
• A steadily declining teen birth rate that continues to remain lower than the California teen birth rate;
• A steady decline in the use of agricultural pesticides over the past decade, as well as generally low levels of environmental ozone and fine particulate matter;
• Significantly low rates (below statewide averages) of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV;
Among Napa County’s challenges are the following:
• Only half of adults and children eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
• Drug and alcohol abuse are a serious concern. More than one-third of adults have reported binge drinking within the past year, and one-quarter of high school freshmen report alcohol use in the past month.
• Many individuals and families are living in poverty. More than one quarter of all residents and one-third of families with children under 18 live below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
Smith said she hopes Napa County residents will use the Community Health Assessment to educate themselves and to become involved in the county’s health improvement plan.
“We’d love to hear from people,” Smith said.
People can get involved by writing letters to their local newspapers, or by sharing their ideas about new health policies at city council meetings, she said.
Smith also encourages students, who are working on health projects at school, to use the Community Health Assessment as a research tool.
“You don’t have to be a doctor or volunteer at the hospital to improve the health of the community,” Smith said.