A Nevada County ZIP code may mean more than just the place to send your mail.
Living in Nevada County might also be relatively good for your health.
“Where you live is important,” said Dr. Ken Cutler, Nevada County’s health officer. “It’s not easy having a healthy lifestyle in an unhealthy environment.”
The newest county-by-county health rankings, released last week, show Nevada County as No. 8 out of 57 counties statewide in health outcomes (the 58th county, Alpine, is too small to participate in the ranking system).
“Nevada County is usually in the top 10,” Cutler said. “We should all take pride in that.”
Cutler made his remarks after a presentation last week to Nevada County Supervisors. The board proclaimed the week of April 7 through 14 as “Public Health Week in Nevada County.”
The rankings are done nationally by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Health Institute. They not only look at health behaviors such as overeating, smoking or drinking, but also environmental factors such as air and water quality and housing problems.
Other measures include access to health care, poverty, education and crime.
“The purpose is to foster discussion on health and what impacts our health,” Cutler said.
According to the new rankings, some not-so-positive factors in the county are:
— Adult smoking was 14 percent, compared to 13 percent in the statewide average.
“Our smoking rate is still slightly above the state,” Cutler said. “Although 14 percent doesn’t seem very high, smoking is still the leading cause of preventable premature death in the United States.”
— Air pollution was at a daily average 9.6 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter, compared to 9.3 statewide.
“We don’t generate pollution, but it settles here in the valley,” Cutler said.
— Alcohol-impaired driving deaths were at 33 percent, above the state average of 32 percent.
On the plus side:
— Drinking water violations were at 1 percent, compared to 2 percent statewide.
“The water quality here is good,” Cutler said.
— Adult obesity was at 19 percent, compared to 23 percent in the state.
— Physical inactivity was at 13 percent, compared to the statewide average of 18 percent.
Cutler said the rankings are just a snapshot and don’t cover everything.
For example, the report doesn’t note that Nevada County has the lowest rate per population in the state of children who are immunized when they enter kindergarten.
Cutler said there were a number of Personal Belief Exemptions in Nevada County.
“Many parents continue to express the concern that immunizations are linked to rising autism rates, even though there is no credible scientific evidence for that,” he said.
The low immunization rate may have played a part in Nevada County’s high rate of whooping cough -- or pertussis -- cases last year, he said.
“We had 72 cases — the largest case rate per 100,000 population of counties in the state,” Cutler said.
Nevada County also had the highest percentage of clients in the federal WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program and who are breastfeeding, according to Debra Wilson, a senior nutritionist in WIC.
“We know breastfeeding promotes healthier babies and healthier moms,” Wilson said.
Breastfeeding is not measured in the rankings, but is a major focus of WIC, which serves more than 50 percent of babies born in Nevada County, Wilson said.
Jill Blake, health and wellness coordinator for the Nevada County Public Health Department, said the county’s WIC program is highly ranked, although it keeps a low profile.
“The idea is that if public health is doing its job well, you don’t hear about it,” Blake said.
“The bottom line is, Nevada County overall is a healthy place to live and work,” Cutler said. “But there are some areas for improvement.”
To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4239.
This story was updated on Tuesday, April 1, 2014, to change the county name to Alpine County. Also, some statistics and language in the health rankings were clarified.