Lois Henry

Wednesday, Apr 03 2013 04:00 AM

LOIS HENRY: A ranking needs a look, as does an odd comment

By Lois Henry

Couple things to share around the water cooler today -- health rankings and my response to being called a "libtard."

New national county-by-county health rankings came out last month and guess what? Kern County is apparently a death pit.

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How Kern stacks up

County-by-county health rankings are a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, which looks at categories such as morbidity, unemployment, access to health food, etc. for more than 3,000 counties nationwide.

This is the fourth year such rankings have been distributed.

Check it out at http://www.countyhealthrankings.org.

Lois Henry hosts "First Look with Scott Cox" every Wednesday on KERN 1180 AM from 9 to 10 a.m. The show is also broadcast live on www.bakersfield.com. You can get your two cents in by calling 842-KERN.

Is your reaction to A) pack up the car and head for the hills? B) roll over and hit snooze? C) skim past the boring stuff to get to the "libtard" discussion?

I won't go into this too much because I tend to think rankings are overrated. (Though it might be kind of interesting to rank all the rankings we end up in where we're either No. 1 if it's bad or bottom of the heap if it's good.)

Anyhoo, new county-by-county health rankings are out and Kern is 54th out of California's 58 counties (bottom of the heap, again).

Interestingly, for the four years this ranking has been developed, we've been running neck and neck with tiny Del Norte County in extreme northern California along the coast.

I point out Del Norte because it has strikingly clean air.

Since prevailing wisdom these days is that our air is, literally, killing us, I found that very interesting.

So how is it Kern and Del Norte counties have such similarly abysmal health rankings?

In my view: Poverty.

That's right, not bad air, but lack of resources.

Kern's unemployment was 10 percent in 2010 when the rankings started and now stands at 14. 9 percent. Over the same period, Del Norte's went from 9 percent to 13.4 percent.

The percent of Kern's children living in poverty has gone from 25 to a shocking 35 percent between 2010 and 2013. Del Norte's kids aren't much better off going from 31 percent living in poverty in 2010 to 34 percent currently.

Even for folks with enough money to visit a doctor, finding one in Kern or Del Norte counties can be tough.

In Kern, there's only one doc per 2,021 people and one per 1,364 people in Del Norte.

Compare all that with Marin County, which has been No. 1 in the health rankings every year since 2010.

The ratio there is one doctor per 712 residents. Not to mention Marin enjoys a 7.4 percent unemployment rate and only 11 percent of Marin's kids live in poverty.

Oh, and Del Norte's air is better than Marin's with fewer unhealthy air days.

Go figure.

***

OK, so I typically don't make a fuss about the odd, mean, or downright ridiculous comments I sometimes get on my articles. But I just had to share one that popped up on my column about James Enstrom on Sunday.

He's a researcher suing UCLA for firing him, alleging the school discriminated against him for his scientific views on air pollution. He, like me, doesn't believe pollution is killing Californians and has done studies backing up his view.

My story hit the web about 10 p.m. Saturday and a person using the handle davidmabe42 felt compelled to comment.

He (I'm assuming it's a he) starts by saying that over the past two years I've transformed into a "logical conservative" in order to win over subscribers by hiding the paper's true "radial libtard philosophy."

But, he still bets I'm a "radial libtard" when it comes to social issues such as sexual orientation.

That's exactly how it wrote it several times: "radial libtard." I assume he meant radical, but perhaps he really did mean that liberalism radiates from me like spokes in a wheel.

Who knows? His comment was removed because, as a posted comment without context, editors at the paper viewed it as offensive.

But here's something else that struck me.

After all the sweating and fretting we do here to make sure our information is correct, relevant, accurate and fair; and after all the effort it takes from many other hands to bring that content to readers either in print or online, "libtard" is what davidmabe42 comes up with?

Aside from being rude and just flat stupid, it doesn't address a single issue outlined in my column.

Seriously, davidmabe42, if that's the entirety of your contribution to the great marketplace of ideas, please, do us all a favor and just keep it to yourself.

Oh, and to "wisecrack" who suggested I need a "strong conservative man to be under his authority" learn to obey and follow direction -- your sarcasm is appreciated.

Opinions expressed in this column are those of Lois Henry, not The Bakersfield Californian. Her column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. Comment at http://www.bakersfield.com, call her at 395-7373 or e-mail lhenry@bakersfield.com

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