National Health Care Statistics and Population Health from a Westside Kern County Point of View – Gerald (Jerry) Starr, Executive Director; West Side Health Care District

I have always heard that Statistics can be boring! At times, however, Statistics can be “Wow” or “Gee Whiz” “I didn’t know that”! Well, let’s look at some of the statistics that present challenges and opportunities for Westside Family Health Care-our Rural Health Clinic. First, citizens of the Westside of Kern County might find some of the national 2018 Key Healthcare Industry statistics interesting:

    • This Nation spends 18% of our Gross National Product (GNP) on health care: $18,624 Billion dollars
    • Medicare and Medicaid (in California that’s Medi-Cal) spends $1,130.5 Billion dollars and the total for Personal Healthcare Expenditure is $2,340 Billion
    • We are spending $10,348 per person for healthcare in our country!
    • There are 5,534 Hospitals in our country and that’s down from 5,810 in the year 2000.
    • The Life expectancy in our country now for males is 76.4 years and for females is 81.2 years
    • The Infant mortality per 1,000 live births was 5.8 in 2014 and the U.S rank among the world’s nations is 24th. That’s down (down is good) from 27th in 2000. (More on that later!)
    • Enough “Gee Whiz” national statistics? Well, I can direct you to many sources if you really want to study them.

Let’s review some of the public health statistics from Western Kern County (using only the 93268 zip code). These numbers are from The Healthy Kern County: Community Dashboard comparing statistics from zip code 93268 with “California Counties” statistics for the period 2013 to 2015. These were downloaded from www.healthykern.org this past August.

Let’s look at two of the traditional measurements for public health concerns: Diabetes; and, Maternal, Fetal and Infant Health for Zip code 93268:

For Diabetes:
    • The rate of Emergency Room visits per 10,000 patients due to diabetes from 93268 is 19.2. Compared with California Counties that rate (19.2) is “Green”. Green is good in that the rate is lower than the statewide average of 24.5/10,000.
    • The rate of Emergency Room visits per 10,000 patients due to Long-Term Complications from diabetes from 93268 is 10.1/10,000. That is also “Green” as the statewide average is 11.7.
These rates sound great! But could the incidences of those seeking Emergency Room care for diabetes related problems be affected by the other factors? Consider the limited access to primary care physicians in the 93268 zip code; and, the fact that the nearest emergency room(s) are over 35 miles away.
    • The rate of hospitalizations due to diabetes is another thing! The rate for 93268 patients is 24.6/10,000 population and that rate is well within the “RED ZONE” when compared with the 57 California Counties (Mean is 15.7/10,000).
    • The rate of hospitalizations due to Long-Term Complications from diabetes is 13.3/10.000 patients and that, again, is well within the “RED ZONE” when compared with the 57 California Counties (mean is 8.8/10,000).

Let’s review the Maternal, Fetal and Infant Health for Zip code 93268:

    • Low Birth Weight: (more likely to have health problems and neonatal intensive care).
This rate is measured as a percentage of live births. Low birth weight is a birth baby that weighs less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces. The rate for 93268 is 8.1%, well within the “RED ZONE” when compared with California Counties. The target rate for Low Birth weight rate is 7.8%.
        o There is some good news, however, when you note that the percentage of Low Birth Weight babies- between 2009 and 2012- for 93268 declined from 13.1% to 8.1% in 2012.
    • Infant Mortality Rate: Remember the national Infant Mortality Rate was 5.8/1,000 in 2014? Well, the Infant Mortality Rate for zip code 93268 in 2009 was 20.7 deaths per 1,000 live births when compared with the 57 California Counties. Very much within the “RED ZONE”!
    • Early Prenatal Care is a major factor in preventing Low Birth Weight babies and a major factor in reducing Infant Mortality. Early Prenatal Care is defined as “care in the first trimester” (the first three months of pregnancy). Moms that do not receive prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight baby and the baby is five times more likely to die than the babies of Moms who get prenatal care. Scary statistics for sure.
        o The statistic for Mothers who received Early Prenatal Care for Zip Code 93268 in 2012 is 67.5%! This is well within the “RED ZONE” when compared to California Counties and well below the national target of 77.9% set by the Healthy People 2020 organization.

The public health indicators we see for our District are similar to what many Districts and health care organizations in rural, underserved, areas of California experience. The awareness of the public health indicators for our Zip Code of 93268 creates a challenge as well as an opportunity for the Board and staff of the West Side Health Care District. The District has set the goal of increasing the availability and access to primary health care for the citizens of the West Side Health Care District. The success of that goal is critical to addressing these public health and wellness problems.

The District began to address this challenge in 2015 with the goal to continue the walk-in services while starting projects to expand the primary care services available to the Westside through our existing Clinic. West Side Family Health Care became a federally certified Rural Health Clinic in January of 2017. We have full time and per diem physicians and two full-time Family Nurse Practitioners scheduled during the 88-hours the clinic is open each week. In late summer or early fall of 2019 we will add 12,810 square feet of clinical space at 100 E. North Street–the current site of the Clinic. The added space will allow the District to offer additional services to address the primary care needs of our community. The availability of, and access to, Primary Care is the proven prescription for addressing the health and wellness needs of a (our) community’s population. We have a wonderful opportunity; we have a plan in motion and please “Watch us Grow” to meet our public health goals and Mission.

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