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Is California a Healthy Place to Live?

Aerial view of a Downtown Los Angeles at sunset showing high buildings and roads.

Recently, the California Wellness Foundation, aka Cal Wellness, commissioned the Field Research Corporation, a polling company, to interview nearly 2,200 Californians about topics such as health insurance, crime, employment, and the environment in their community. Those communities included:

  • Los Angeles County
  • The San Francisco Bay Area
  • The South Coast, which spans Ventura County to the Mexican border, per the State of California Coastal Conservancy
  • The Inland Empire, which comprises 15 San Bernardino cities, according to the League of California Cities
  • Central Valley, a 40- to 60-mile wide and 450-mile long agricultural area that includes state capital Sacramento, Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto, Redding, and Stockton

Out of the five, Central Valley respondents “were the most likely to say their communities felt polluted, unsafe and unhealthy,” The New York Times said. “Asked to rate whether their community was a ‘healthy place to live,’ 45 percent of the valley’s residents chose ‘fair,’ ‘poor’ or ‘very poor.’ … The Central Valley was also the region most likely to take a fair or worse view of pollution — 55 percent, compared to 42 percent statewide — and public safety — 56 percent, compared to 46 percent statewide.”

Consequently, only about half of Central Valley respondents believed they had clean drinking water. Environmentalists have raised concerns about fertilizers leaking into the valley’s groundwater for years, the Times said.

What Questions Did the Survey Ask?

The Advancing Wellness Poll asked 120 questions. Some were U.S. Census Bureau-type questions, such as:

  • Including yourself, how many people currently live in your household?
  • How many of these people are children under age 18?
  • Are you White or Caucasian, Black or African-American, Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian or an Alaskan native, or a member of another race?
  • Do you own or rent your home?

Five questions asked respondents to rank their community in terms of gang and gun violence, quality of public schools, access to healthy foods, job opportunities for at-risk youth, and pollution, such as garbage and pesticides.

Several in-depth questions asked about healthcare. For example:

  • Have you been told by a doctor that you have a chronic health condition, like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart disease?
  • Do you currently have any kind of healthcare coverage? This would include health insurance that you receive through your or another family member’s employer or union, through a government program, like Medicare, Medi-Cal or the military, or through a health plan that you purchased separately.

Forty-nine percent of respondents said they couldn’t afford health insurance.

“Latinos are more likely [than] the state’s other ethnic populations to report difficulties in getting both medical care and dental care when they need it,” the poll said. “About one in three of the Latinos surveyed (31%) say it is very or somewhat difficult for them to get medical care when they need it, and nearly half (46%) say this with regard to getting dental care.”

Are You Having Trouble Affording Health Insurance?

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