It’s estimated that anywhere between 5 – 20% of the American population contracts the influenza virus each year, but according to a new state health report, Californians living in Los Angeles County face a higher risk of contracting — and possibly dying — from the virus, compared to the average citizen.
The report, which was conducted and released by the California Department of Public Health, analyzed how the state’s healthcare system measured up next to national statistics, and it also analyzed trends in and between separate counties.
Although researchers found that California’s overall healthcare system has made many improvements in recent years, especially when compared on a national scale, they also found high numbers of preventable diseases, like the flu and diabetes, in certain counties.
According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, researchers found that male residents of Los Angeles County are more likely to develop gonorrhea than residents living in any other region of the state, and also that pneumonia- and influenza-related deaths occur more in Los Angeles.
Not surprisingly, researchers are theorizing that this major difference in health conditions throughout the state — especially conditions that are largely preventable — is due to socioeconomic factors.
The cost of living is slightly cheaper in Los Angeles County, causing many people from other counties to relocate when they’re having financial problems. Naturally, these low-income residents often have trouble finding low-cost preventative health services.
And no other communities feel the same disadvantages in this trend as the minority communities in Los Angeles County.
The LA Times reported in March that minority families in California generally correlate with the state’s low-income households. According to data from the Working Poor Families Project, the 10.6 million low-income households across the U.S. are primarily headed by minority adults, and poorer households are three times as likely to be headed by a minority parent.
In California specifically, 44% of minority-headed households are considered low-income, and many of these households include first- and second-generation Americans, born into families that immigrated into the United States. The limitations that immigrants often face (i.e., lack of reliable transportation, the inability to continue higher education) impact every aspect of their lives — including their access to healthcare.
Although this research paints a pretty bleak picture for the area surrounding Los Angeles, it could very well convince more state lawmakers to increase focus on preventative healthcare — not just for financial reasons, but because the health of their voters is at stake.