Higher rates of smoking and fast food consumption among Riverside County residents are believed to be contributing factors to why the area ranks so low in overall health.
More than 60 percent of early deaths in the county are causd by heart disease, cancer, lung disease, and stroke, according to the 2013 Community Health Profile, an 83-page report on the health of county residents.
The County of Riverside Department of Public Health released the report, which outlines the chronic disease issue, the behaviors leading to these illnesses, and suggestions for ways to change behavior and improve health, according to a news release.
Earlier this month, the American Lung Association gave Palm Desert a C grade overall in its annual survey evaluating cities on their smoking policies. However, the survey cited the city's laws curbing outdoor smoking as a positive effort in the fight aginst second-hand smoke.
While the overall grade was a C, Palm Desert received a strong A for its outdoor smoking laws. The city received De grades in two other categories - providing smoke-free housing and reducing sales of tobacco products.
Riverside County ranks 32nd among the state's 58 counties in overall health, officials said.
“We’re using data to tell a story; create a roadmap,” said Wendy Hetherington, chief epidemiologist for the county. “The report will help guide our public health programs and policies.”
The report also serves as the foundation for the Healthy Riverside County Initiative, a effort kicking off in conjunction with the release of the health profile. The initiative, which relies on the report findings, has four priority areas: improve eating habits, increase daily physical activity, reduce tobacco rates, and build healthier environments that support walking, biking, and exercise.
“It’s a new era of community involvement and population health improvement. The profile serves as starting point for community driven change. By making better food and drink choices, building exercise into our day and not smoking, we can make a difference not only for ourselves but for our friends and family,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County interim health officer.
The report, with data from local, federal, and state souces, can be used by educational institutions, cities, and other municipalities wanting to improve the health of employees and residents, officials said.