Home > Uncategorized > Humboldt County – Amid stunning beauty, a sad health profile

Humboldt County – Amid stunning beauty, a sad health profile

From the California Health Care Foundation, via the Lost Coast Outpost comes news that Humboldt County health statistics are horrible.

“…after a close look at the latest California Department of Public Health statistics, I might want to remain a visitor and not a resident. The county’s astounding beauty and apparent serenity disguise some truly disturbing health numbers.”

Full report here:


  1. Anonymous
    April 27, 2012 at 11:10 am

    “The county encompasses 2.3 million acres, 80 percent of which, according to the county, “is forestlands, protected redwoods and recreation areas.” Eighty percent unsettled. Now that’s isolation.”

    “Perhaps the mix of poverty and rural character is a factor, creating a physical and socio-cultural isolation that could be affecting health.”

    Ya think?

  2. Julie Timmons
    April 27, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Thank you for posting this. Confirms what we all suspected.

  3. Anonymous
    April 27, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    Good. Keep the paranoid hypochondriacs away.

  4. Anonymous
    April 27, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Could the reason be… the type and quality of health care offered in Humboldt County?

  5. Anonymous
    April 27, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    This data only considers deaths. I’d like to know whether the number of people contracting potentially fatal illnesses is higher in Humboldt County, or only the death rate from those illnesses is higher.

  6. What Now
    April 27, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    A late family member of mine was a VP for Transamerica in the last 1980’s.
    When he and others started a a new health insurance program in California. he and others toured the area and I spent a few days showing them around.
    They were seeking policy variances specifically for Humboldt because of ALS, MS cancer rates in the county that were way off of all actuarial charts.
    Predatory capitalists to the last person. they all stated that studies and analysis of statistics pointed to the over use of herbicides and fungicides as well as the nuclear power plant.
    I have my own doubts as to whether or not those are the only culprits but they sure as hell don’t enhance anyone’s health or quality of life.

  7. Anonymous
    April 27, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    “Predatory capitalists to the last person. they all stated that studies and analysis of statistics pointed to the over use of herbicides and fungicides as well as the nuclear power plant.”

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it is a recognized fact that humboldt hill is always among the top three cancer hotspots in california (therefore likely all of the US). A zoomable map used to be available online charting cases and deaths. The area that we know as humboldt hill, which just so happens to be slightly inland, elevated and directly downwind of the power plant’s exhaust plumes. I last viewed the map in 2006, it’s no longer available online, I’ve searched intensely. I should have saved the website entirely. Other hotspots were “refinery row” Richmond and pockets of the area along the multi-county long refinery belt, and an area of Los Angeles, I don’t recall where specifically.

  8. Mitch
  9. common cents
    April 27, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Could it possibly be something air borne from a hemp type plant?

  10. Anonymous
    April 27, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    I have many fond memories of overcast evenings walking outside the HSU dorms as a soft mist sifted through the air, accompanied by the most putrid, choking odors from the pulp mill.

  11. Anonymous
    April 27, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    The pulp mills used to pump sulphur dioxide (rotten-egg gas) into the air (among other substances.) That is what caused acid rain to fall in our beautiful Humboldt Bay Area starting from the mid-1960s.

    Remember how it smelled? How it rotted out the cars that weren’t garaged?

    Maybe that had an effect on our health.

  12. Chicken Little
    April 27, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    The sky is falling-The sky is falling-The sky is falling
    Richard Kipling: Meth head or dick head?

  13. Anonymous
    April 27, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    My fond memories of the Arcata pulp smell are from the 1990s. Eureka had it, too.

  14. jr
    April 27, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Remember when one complained about the smell and was told that it was the smell of money. Your reeka was an apt name for the town.

  15. jr
    April 27, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Of course what I really miss, although they too were bad for the environment, were the teepee burners. I remember that smell distinctly from about Laytonville north. It was like the wonderful smell when camping and sitting around the campfire.

  16. Thirdeye
    April 27, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    Before 1990, Humboldt County was second only to Los Angeles County in tonnage of industrial air pollutants in California. It was mostly from the two pulp mills. 1990 saw the LP mill shut down and the Simpson mill switch over from chlorine to oxygen delignification. Simpson also installed recovery boilers to remove hydrogen sulfide from exhaust. Whatever effects pulp mill pollutants had have been dissipating for 22 years.

    Herbicides haven’t been aerially applied for over 30 years. They are engineered to break down under oxidation, before they have a chance to enter waterways.

    Poverty and lack of access to preventative care are the most likely culprits for Humboldt’s high rate of death from cancer and chronic diseases.

  17. Indica Jones
    April 27, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    So now I know why Humboldt has such an extraordinary amount of people requiring medical marijuana. I guess it’s just a sick place.

  18. Anonymous
    April 27, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Number of people. Amount of marijuana.

  19. Gil Yule
    April 28, 2012 at 7:12 am

    Simply too much scenic beauty, abundant clean water and unpolluted air. A toxic mix? Apparently we are doomed to live short but quality lives. Not a bad choice by me.

  20. Mitch
    April 28, 2012 at 7:45 am

    I wonder how many of the people commenting have read the press release. I wonder how many have read the study.

    The cause of low life expectancy here is probably hairy armpits.

  21. Plain Jane
    April 28, 2012 at 8:23 am

    It would have been helpful if they had also reported on the health insurance status of those who died or who are in poor health from diseases like diabetes and cancer which can’t be effectively treated in emergency rooms and the availability of health care for those without insurance or with Medi-Cal.

  22. Mitch
    April 28, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Agree completely. And then there’s the variation in the willingness and ability of public agencies to assist those in need, which is a completely different metric than public funds expended.

  23. Sunny
    April 28, 2012 at 8:45 am

    I read both links Mitch. It seems the lumber industry blessed us with lots of nasties over the years, many of which have a high latency period before causing issues. Given the proximity of Humboldt’s major population centers to its major lumber product manufacturing facilities, it comes as no surprise that out of 58 counties we are ranked “50th or lower in 13 of the 19 categories.” Toss in power plant emissions, teepee burners, high rates of drug abuse, lots of guns, dangerous roads, and so on and it all makes sense.

  24. Plain Jane
    April 28, 2012 at 9:14 am

    While links may be made to pollution of various types as a cause of high cancer rates, it doesn’t fully explain the deaths from cancers which are curable with early detection and treatment. It also doesn’t explain the high rates of death from diabetes which has never been connected to pollution. The misery factor of poor health without access to treatment could be a cause for high rates of drug abuse and suicide as well.

  25. Sunny
    April 28, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Good points you make Plain Jane. I don’t have health insurance and haven’t seen a doctor in at least a decade so have no chance for early detection of anything. Had to reset my own broken clavicle when I broke it. The system is broken. I wish I could reset that myself too.

  26. jr
    April 28, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Interesting and informative California Report yesterday about Health Care. For those that did not hear it, it is archived at http://www.californiareport.org

  27. Plain Jane
    April 28, 2012 at 10:47 am

    The trailer for “Day in the Waiting Room” was interesting. Imagine the suffering of people whose only access to medical care is the ER, the astronomically increased costs to taxpayers for medical treatment in the ER which could have been done in an office if Medi-Cal paid providers a reasonable reimbursement or we had universal insurance. Does anyone have the figures for how much of our health care spending is due to ER abuse due to lack of other health care options?

  28. retired guy
    April 28, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Lack of health insurance, noticeably affecting the poor, certainly has an effect on these statistics. I’m sure that the 200 people being hired by the venerable local WalMart, will now be covered, right? What a wonderful thing to happen here. Smile.

  29. jr
    April 28, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Wal-Mart offers health insurance to its employees. It’s called Medical. But health insurance is becoming essentially a scam when many people are forced into higher deductibles. What this means is that ALL health care costs are borne by the individual until the deductible is met, and with a $3K deductible which is now common, by the time one has reached it, the year is over and one is back at zero. Unless one gets very sick and needs a lot of health care services, one can never get beyond the deductible amount. Sometimes I think that is better to be indigent or in prison for the health care benefits.

  30. John Valenti
    April 28, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Of course it’s the poverty combined with the absence of universal health care!

    They’ve got foreign teens to mfg most commodities, why invest in America’s human resources?

    Ask any local surgeon. Every day another lucky senior qualifies for Medicare and they’ve been delaying 2-3 surgical procedures for years that are now completed at one time. They were fortunate to survive but their quality of life was unnecessarily painful and unproductive.

  31. Not A Native
    April 28, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    This is an interesting topic. But since the data in the report is unanalysed, all commenters here can do is speculate, often based on their personal preconceived biases. And its disturbing and cause for defensive denial to the local ‘boosters’ who need to believe that where they live is the best place on planet Earth.

    One thing’s for sure, there are counties that are poorer than HumCo but have better mortality statistics. So, poverty caused lack of medical care isn’t a good explanation as a major cause of above average deaths in HumCo. And it isn’t that those poorer counties have lots more doctors than HumCo. Also, HumCo has higher rates across all causes of death, not just the ones that medical care could prevent.

    In my opinion there’s definitely something about lifestyles prevalent in HumCo that results in earlier than average deaths. I don’t think environmental chemicals explain the data, poor counties in the central valley have much higher levels of air/water pollution.

    Over at Hank’s blog, some speculate that people migrating here in middle and later age disproportionally affect the statistics. That is, people who come to HumCo may be relatively not well/have chronic diseases and “come to die here”, are more likely to have attitudes to not seek medical care, and more likely to engage in risky activities( perhaps unknowingly, because the risks here are different from where they came from). Based on my observations, I think those commenters are onto something.

  32. Plain Jane
    April 28, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Doctors’ willingness to treat patients without insurance or with lousy insurance (high co-pays / Medi-Cal) may vary in different areas. The presence or absence of sliding scale clinics and offices accepting new patients would also need to be measured. The study accounted for the elderly but not years of residence.

  33. Not A Native
    April 28, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Seems to me, you’re implying that local doctors are more heartless and greedy than doctors in say, Merced county.

    Of course, being a doctor is a business. A local medical society survey found that doctors considering a new practice in HumCo can expect not only poorer but also fewer patients, because of the low population and competition from other doctors. So, even if they schedule very short appointments, new HumCo doctors who see MediCal patients have less chance to make equivalent money to HumCo doctors seeing fewer but better paying patients.

  34. Plain Jane
    April 28, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    I don’t think competition for patients is the problem. I know a number of people with insurance who are waiting lists because offices aren’t accepting new patients. We don’t have enough doctors because we have too many poor people and Medi-Cal doesn’t pay office overhead.

  35. John Valenti
    April 29, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Those with more money, security, and better insurance, including medicare, routinely go to Santa Rosa or SF for non-emergency illnesses.

    They can have dinner in Napa and SF while saving thousands of dollars on procedures, (yes, it’s a business within a largely contained market in H.Co. and higher costs, costs that must increase as patients seek surgery elsewhere).

  36. Anonymous
    April 29, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    All this commentary and not a word about the effect of lifelong stress on the health of the individual? How does powerlessness affect our local residents? God knows we have enough of it.

  37. Highly Financed
    April 29, 2012 at 11:13 pm


    The powerless, financially distressed are this nation’s heroes.

    Eureka would collapse completely if not for the all the predatory industries they support today.

    A 25% home affordability rate has been a gift from God for the propertied children of our town fathers who know of no easier way to make a living than landlording in a Depression.

    The majority of residents who are living the stresses and illnesses of personal economic disasters are sacrificing themselves for a worthy cause, as their class have always done.

    On any given weekend scores are selling their belongings for pennies on the dollar in record numbers of “estate”, garage sales, and storage- unit auctions, prior to losing their homes…also in record numbers.

    For those who count, Depressions have always been fire-sales.

    Thank you.

  38. Anonymous
    April 29, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    You, Highly Financed, have fleshed-out my remarks quite nicely.

    Thank YOU.

  39. Not A Native
    April 30, 2012 at 8:05 am

    But Jane, as the data show, other counties are poorer(with presumably a higher percentage people using MediCal), but they have lower death rates from medically treatable diseases. If some of that is due to access to doctors, how else is it that doctors in those places are able and willing to see many more MediCal patients while ones in HumCo are not?

  40. Plain Jane
    April 30, 2012 at 8:31 am

    I don’t know the level of Medi-Cal use in other areas or the willingness of doctors in other areas to accept it, NAN. Do you? I know that in this area we have a high rate of Medi-Cal usage and a low rate of Medi-Cal acceptance by local doctors. To what do you ascribe the death rate from treatable diseases here?

  41. Mitch
    April 30, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Some questions:

    1) Might the attitude of public agency management towards provision of services to poor persons have an impact on death rates? Not just medical agencies, but any agency dealing with the prerequisites people need in order to lead healthy lives… to feel included, to feel valued, to feel care is available, to feel one has access to service?

    2) Might the attitude of local area physicians towards under-served populations have an impact on death rates?

    3) Might the beliefs of the under-served populations with respect to their ability to obtain timely and respectful care have an impact on death rates?

    This area has the gift of the Open Door clinics. What else has it got, compared with areas of similar demographics?

  42. Plain Jane
    April 30, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Availability of mental health services could also be a factor.

  43. Plain Jane
    April 30, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Proximity to major medical centers might also play a role.

  44. April 30, 2012 at 11:30 am

    One of the new “lows” for Medi-care and private insurance companies is the same as other “Right-Wing” attacks on the poor; that is, they “starve-the-beast” which is to say they withold payment until the very last. In medi-care this has resulted in clinics and doctors not taking patients with Medi-care because they (clinics) are not getting paid. Now lately the insurance industry has been begun doing the same thing. They just withold the payments. So now you’re seeing more and more medical practices that are run on a cash only basis.
    They’ll make you pay the bill and let you deal with the insurance company.
    The “New-American-Centurions” have perfected the “Starve-The-Beast” strategy in non-payment of taxes owed to governments. Local, state and federal. They want to break the governmental infrastructure so as to come sweeping in with offers to “Privatize” all those wonderful institutions we (the people who actually pay our fair share of taxes); paid for.
    They’re thieves and cheats. I would call them traitors, because that is what they are, but that term has lost its impact.

  45. Plain Jane
    April 30, 2012 at 11:52 am

    The reductions in reimbursement from private, workers comp and Medicare have also made Medi-Cal harder to afford for providers.

  46. Anonymous
    April 30, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Last time I saw my doctor at Eureka Family Practice it cost me about $30. I’ve had Blue Cross “insurance” for decades.

    Recently, after only two years, I told that I would need to be seen as a “new patient” requiring $200 in tests. (I’ve been going to EFP since 1980!).

    My lifetime of local care had been great.

    Until I became older with common illnesses.

    Where’s all those “patriot” Tea Baggers demanding the freedom to chose to go downtown to have a Mexican doctor repair a broken bone for $500, instead of having to go into debt for 5 years so that Dr. Republican can buy his 5th house?

  47. Percy
    April 30, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    They’re too busy protesting that damn socialist Obamacare while demanding the government keep that damn socialist Medicare and Social Security. Himmler would be proud.

  48. Percy
    April 30, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Strike Himmler and insert Goebbles.

  49. Not A Native
    April 30, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    PJ, its you not I who offered the idea that low access to MediCal services is a significant cause of high death rates in HumCo. I don’t see reasons why access would be lower in HumCo than in counties with similar economic profiles but with lower death rates. Unless you assume that for personal reasons HumCo doctors are less likely to accept poor people as patients. I don’t assume that.

    If you had read my first posting, you should know my thinking of the reasons for high death rates in HumCo. It has little to do with access to MediCal services.

  50. Anonymous
    April 30, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    “Not a Native,” you started your original comment by noting that:

    …since the data in the report is unanalysed, all commenters here can do is speculate, often based on their personal preconceived biases.

    You could have just stopped right there.

  51. Plain Jane
    April 30, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    My point is that there are factors not taken into account in this study so in depth analysis won’t necessarily give the correct answers. We know there is a shortage of doctors here in every specialty as well as family practice and an even greater shortage of providers for Medi-Cal and uninsured. I don’t get why you would think it is skewed by people coming here to die but not take into account the lack of access for a large number of un and under insured people. Are you aware that even with the shortage of doctors and inability to accept new patients, medical practices are selling out to the hospital because they can’t afford their overhead with the reduced number of practitioners in their groups?

  52. Not A Native
    April 30, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    This report isn’t a “study”. Its a compilation of statistical data. No “factors” at all were taken into account, so no “factors’ are missing. It merely compiles the number and causes of death, and ranks counties on those data.

    Point is, I don’t believe doctors are any more rare here than other similar counties. But those other counties do have lower death rates.

    You may not “get” my reasoning about arrivals coming to die. But as I wrote, that point was made first by other commenters and my personal experience supports that idea.

  53. Anonymous
    April 30, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Humboldters just don’t care about staying healthy, thats it.

  54. May 1, 2012 at 7:54 am

    Percy, keep listening to the propaganda about “Socialism” and you’ll end up voting away what little rights we have left.
    Every good thing that has benefited Americans has come from “Socialism”
    The stuff you’re talking about is not socialism, it’s “corporatism” or “Fascism”
    “Obama-care” is a giveaway to the heath care corporations. A huge number of people, including myself want Single-payer, national health care that is a right and not a “Privilege”
    Now that would be some Socialism I could sink my teeth into…..
    (is that how you spell: “privilege?” spell check is off for some reason, and I just can’t remember. Back to 8th grade for me!

  55. High Finance
    May 1, 2012 at 8:11 am

    Statistics only tell what, not why.

    There are a lot of factors involved. With the decline of the timber industry the county is poorer than ever. The weather all around the bay depresses a lot of people. This area has a higher percentage of old people than most counties, both because of people retiring here and younger people leaving looking for better jobs.

    Drugs & alcohol are abused more here and that brings a lot of problems.

    It is silly to blame the pulp mills. It is the LACK of the pulp mills and their good paying jobs that contributes to the health problem.

  56. Jack Sherman
    May 1, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    You can’t have a healthy community any more than you can have a democracy when the public is routinely kept uninformed by every media source.

    Humboldt County is probably less informed than other rural communities, that’s no surprise, we keep electing the same developer-backed candidates despite the undeniable, yet, unreported damage they’ve done.

    Unless another doc leaves a tool inside a patient, or there’s 68 layoffs at St. Joe, we are denied routine health-related news, including coverage of the AIDS, cancer and alcohol epidemics, not a word about routine health tips, nor do we have a health section in any local newspaper. Too many physicians are too eager to prescribe unnecessary drugs and surgery because “it’s a business” and another under-reported phenomenon.

    The U.S. remains the only industrialized nation on Earth failing to insure that all citizen’s have access to health care.

    This is one of the primary reasons that foreign industries chose European nations to locate, instead of the U.S., or Humboldt Bay.

  57. High Finance
    May 1, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Now “developer-backed” people are at fault for an almost non existent news media ? And “foreign industries chose Europe nations to locate because of health insurance” ?

    Jack, you need to really get a grip on reality. People are laughing at you dude.

  58. Jack Sherman
    May 2, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Everyone here knows that you lack the capacity for debate, your insults are worn out, so now you’re dragging other “people” along for credibility?

    So sad.

    If you read the WSJ you would know that public health care systems for all workers is among the top ten reasons foreign capital selects nations to locate in.


    Your other comment makes no sense….did somebody missed their High Ball lunch?

  59. High Finance
    May 3, 2012 at 7:20 am


  60. Jack Sherman
    May 3, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    I’m pleased you can do something well.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s