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Immunization low, asthma high in Nevada County, new report says

Low immunization rates and a high prevalence of obesity and asthma, including among children, are some of the major health issues facing Nevada County, a special county health report has revealed.

The percentage of Nevada County children ages 2 to 4 who had all their recommended vaccinations declined from 84 percent in 2000-2001 to 74 percent in 2006-2007, the report showed.

In comparison, the percentage of children statewide in the same age group who received all the recommended vaccines was 94 percent in 2006-07, the report said. The number of Nevada County kindergartners and seventh graders who had all the required immunizations was also well below figures at the state level.



Most of the data used in the 2008 Nevada County Public Health Status Report, released earlier this month, were gathered by the county health department or obtained by the county from the California Health Department and the California Health Information Survey, said Dr. Joseph Iser, director of the county Public Health Department.

The health of Nevada County residents depend on multiple factors including their diet, environment, immunizations, genetics and medical facilities available in the county, Iser said.




“While public health and medical professionals may lead certain efforts to promote health in Nevada County, all of us — parents, teachers, elected officials, businesses, community leaders, and individual citizens – play an essential role in improving the health of our community,” Iser said.

He attributed the low immunization rates in western Nevada County to “parents who believe vaccines will cause more harm than good.”

“But what bothers me the most is that children who are exposed to infectious diseases at school will not only infect themselves. They’ll bring those diseases home to their families,” he added.

The report also showed nearly a third of Nevada County teenagers suffer from asthma, and half of the county’s residents take medication for asthma.

“In this side of the county… all of the pollutants (and) allergens get pushed to our area and can’t get over the summit,” Iser said. “A simplistic solution is to come up with more comprehensive transportation and energy solutions.”

Walking for health

More than half of adults in Nevada County are overweight or obese, the report said. In addition, the percentage of overweight school-aged children in Nevada County has increased 6 percent since 2001, the report showed.

“It’s lack of exercise and poor eating choices on the part of families,” Iser said. “This is a nationwide problem.”

The county health department has just received a $375,000 grant from The California Endowment for obesity prevention and exercise, Iser said.

Public health officials are working with two coalitions of residents, bicycling advocates, transportation planners, nutritionists and fitness clubs to encourage people to watch their weight and exercise more, Iser said.

“That’ll help a lot with chronic diseases like cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases and diabetes,” he said.

“We are focusing on low-income families to make low-income communities more walkable,” said Galen El-Askari, health and wellness program manager with the county health department.

Fewer county smokers

The leading cause of death among men and women in Nevada County in 2006 and 2007 was heart disease, the report showed. The other most prevalent causes were pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancer.

On a positive note, the report showed only 17 percent of Nevada County youth were smokers. About 55 percent of young people said they had never smoked.

Nevada County mothers were the most likely in the state to nurse their babies: 94 percent in the county compared to 86 percent statewide.

“This report provides us with a fresh baseline from which to design programs to enhance and protect the health of Nevada County residents,” Iser said. “There are some areas that cause great concern. But there are others in which we seem to be doing well, and I don’t want to ignore those areas.”

To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail ssen@theunion.com or call 477-4229.


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