Statewide report finds Santa Cruz among top 10 counties for health – Santa Cruz Sentinel


Retiring Santa Cruz County Health Officer Gail Newell recently hosted the first annual State of Health in Santa Cruz County virtual town hall forum. She will retire next month and her replacement is expected to be announced this week. (Carl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

SANTA CRUZ – In what could be her last public appearance before she retires next month, Santa Cruz County Health Officer Gail Newell shared general information about the overall health and well-being of the local community.

The first annual State of Health at Santa Cruz County’s virtual town hall, held last week by Newell and other health service agency leaders, kicked off with some good news.

The 2023 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps report ranked Santa Cruz County as one of the healthiest counties in the state — ranking No. 9 out of 58 counties surveyed.

“We did really well. We are in the top 10 counties in the state of California for health outcomes and health conditions,” Newell said.

Health outcomes take into account quantitative data such as death rates and birth rates, and health factors such as social and economic conditions, educational provision and the overall state of the local health care system.

“This is great news for our county,” Newell said.

Statistical deep throw

Despite the overall positive rating, there were areas where the district struggled compared to regional and national averages.

As of 2011 Report findings22% of adults in the county reported binge drinking or drinking, compared to 18% statewide and 19% nationwide. Similarly, 31 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths involved alcohol, compared to 28 percent in California and 27 percent nationally.

Smoking rates were also relatively high, with 11% of adults identified as smokers in the county, compared to 9% regionally and 16% nationally.

“That was surprising to me and I think it’s an area that we can think about and pay more attention to in the future,” Newell said.

The county’s fight against opioids and fentanyl has reached a critical level.

According to the Santa Cruz County Coroner’s Office, five fentanyl-related overdose deaths were reported in 2019, followed by 19 in 2020, 41 in 2021, and 39 in September 2022.

Opioid prescription rates are highest in North County areas, including Scotts Valley, Felton and Brookdale.

“Areas with high opioid prescription rates are struggling with the highest opioid overdose rates,” Newell said, “and this is a trend reflected nationally.”

A lifesaving opioid overdose reversal drug, naloxone, may now be available. It is sold without a prescription In March, in conjunction with the US Food and Drug Administration’s decision. Health officials are working to distribute Narcan — the name of the reversal drug — to the community, and are particularly engaging young people in this effort at various school distribution events.

Infectious diseases

Results are also mixed when it comes to infectious disease trends in the county.

Newell praised the community for its efforts during the Covid-19 outbreak, saying the county has a much lower death rate compared to state and national averages and hasn’t had a Covid-related death since last November.

She stated that earlier vaccination distribution and administration efforts have been successful, with 212,845 or 77.4% of the county population receiving primary vaccinations. California Department of Public Health. However, rates have fallen sharply, with only 79,318 people, or 28.8% of eligible residents, being up-to-date with Covid vaccines.

Public health emergency It ended in MarchOfficials continue to monitor for Covid with wastewater detection equipment. Newell currently has very low case rates and hospitalizations.

Separately, perinatal syphilis was a serious concern as it occurred when a mother with syphilis transmitted the infection to the baby during pregnancy, often causing severe birth defects. Since 2011, case rates have been increasing across the country, and especially on California’s Central Coast. Puerperal syphilis usually occurs in people who don’t seek prenatal care, Newell said.

“Congenital syphilis is kind of our canary in the coal mine,” Newell said, adding that although there are only a handful of cases a year, “they should be zero and where we are…

To close the opening, County Health Services Agency Director Monica Morales announced that her team has identified a top candidate to replace Newell, and that person will be announced this week if all goes to plan.

See the report

What: 2023 County Health Standards and Roadmaps Report.


Santa Cruz County ranked 9th out of 58 California counties in health outcomes and factors.

A snapshot of the state of health in Santa Cruz County will be posted on


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