life expectancy

LIFE CYCLES — Life expectancy varies regionally by more than six years across Sonoma County with residents of Healdsburg living the longest and those in the Russian River area at the bottom end of statistics on causes of death, according to a new county health survey.

The Russian River area has the lowest life expectancy rate of anywhere in Sonoma County while Healdsburg residents tend to live the longest, according to a new Summary Measures of Health report released by the Sonoma County health department.

The river community’s overall life expectancy rate of 78.3 years is “significantly” below the average Sonoma County life expectancy of 81.9 years, said the Sonoma County Department of Health Services (DHS) Director Barbie Robinson.

River area life expectancy is 6.6 years lower than Healdsburg, which has the county’s longest average life expectancy of 84.9 years, according to the report that reviews county life expectancy rates, disabilities and leading causes of death.

The life longevity scorecard found west county and Windsor residents live, on average, to be about 83 while those in Cloverdale and Geyserville get to about 80 and a half.

The report reveals that on the whole, “life expectancy in Sonoma County is similar to California and better than the nation,” said Robinson in a statement accompanying the report from the health department’s Assessment & Epidemiology Unit for Health Policy, Planning and Evaluation.

The report is the first in a series of Sonoma County health trend assessments. The current report, which analyzes information from Sonoma County death certificates in 2013-2015, will be updated every two years “to monitor any changes in the leading causes of death and premature death,” said Robinson, in a forward to the 55-page document.

The scorecard also highlights “what we know about health — how it is markedly influenced by where live, our racial or ethnic background, how much money we make and our gender,” said Robinson. “At the extremes there is nearly a 7-year difference in regional life expectancy,” with the more affluent Healdsburg area population living longer (85 years) than the more income-disadvantaged Russian River area community with a 78-year expectancy.

Using data commonly used in state and national public health surveillance, the report examines nine distinct geographic regions within Sonoma County, and identifies disparities in life expectancy and premature death rates.

The report takes a more in-depth look at health findings published in “A Portrait of Sonoma County,” a 2014 report that explored differences in health, education, and incomes in the county.

The county’s Summary Measures of Health report also comes on the heels of a similar report released in December by the national Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) that describes two successive years of decreasing life expectancy in the United States, which the DHS said is “the first time this has happened in over 50 years.”

The report also highlights important local successes, such as declining death and premature death rates from cancer, heart disease and stroke, three of the county’s and California's leading causes of death. However, regional disparities, such as those between the river area and Healdsburg, remain a public health challenge, the report concludes.

The report will assist the health department, health partners, stakeholders and communities in pursuing innovative solutions to improve health and reduce disparities.

"The Department of Health Services has prioritized data collection and analysis to enable us to make smarter decisions to support the well-being of our 500,000 residents,” said Robinson.

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