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Antelope Valley Presents Notable Health Care Challenges to Los Angeles County

Recent and rapid change of demographics coupled with high levels of poverty has created unique and significant health issues in Antelope Valley.

The Antelope Valley (AV), also referred to as the High Desert or Service Planning Area 1 (SPA 1), is larger than any other SPA in L.A. County and mostly rural, encompassing 1,521 square miles, however, AV comprises less than 4% of the County population. In the last two decades the AV population has doubled in size, growing to approximately 385,000 in 2010, and shifted dramatically in racial and ethnic composition from a predominantly white population,[1] to a more diverse one. [2] Socioeconomic conditions in AV have changed drastically as well, from one of the lowest rates of poverty among the eight L.A. County SPAs in 1990, to the third highest poverty rate in 2010 with nearly half (40%) of the population living below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

2010 Census data revealed that the AV experiences higher rates of mortality than L.A. County for several leading causes of death and greater prevalence of underlying risk factors that lead to increased disease rates, especially among the African American population. These health risks include the highest prevalence of cigarette smoking (20.4%) and the second highest obesity rate (28.0%); cigarette smoking is not only the leading cause of preventable death but also contributes to the top three leading causes of death in AV including: Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), Emphysema, and Lung Cancer; obesity/physical inactivity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the AV and contributes to high rates of death rom CHD, diabetes, and stroke.

To address these serious health risks Los Angeles Department of Public Health (LADPH) is collaborating with the Department of Mental Health (LADMH) and Health Services (LADHS).

LADPH has initiated a number of healthy living groups and initiatives including:

  •  Steps for Health – a collaborative project to increase physical activity to 30mins daily through walking groups, yoga and other forms of exercise
  •  AV Cook Off – a partnership of organizations working to educate youth and their families on nutrition and healthy eating through an annual three-day summer event
  • City of Lancaster Master Bike Plan – LADPH awarded funds to the City of Lancaster to develop a master plan of bike trails
  • AV Fresh Air Coalition – develops policies to reduce smoking rates by making the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster smoke free
  • AV Asthma Task Force – working on a pilot patient navigator program that would help kids who are identified with asthma in AV schools develop appropriate asthma management plan
  • AV STD Task Force – a multifaceted approach to address the high rates of Chlamydia infection in the AV includes community outreach, implementation of specific interventions and education to local area physicians, schools and community-based organizations
  • Youth Engagement Project – a project to encourage and empower youth to reduce gang activity

LADHS is taking action to address community health care needs by expanding networks of care, offering coverage to previously uninsured residents through Healthy Way LA (HWLA) Matched and Unmatched programs, implementing patient centered medical homes to provide coordinated patient care, investing in health care infrastructure, and providing support for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).

Suicide rates, child abuse reporting, elder abuse reporting and psychiatric emergencies are higher in the AV than the County average in part due to the expansive rural demography of the AV; resources are primarily located in Lancaster and Palmdale, making it difficult for many people in the expansive rural areas to access treatment. LADMH developed strategies to better integrate and coordinate health and mental health into the AV community by integrating mental health services into primary care for HWLA beneficiaries; partnering with Antelope Valley Partners for Health to provide information, education, consultation, linkage, and referral to mental health services; providing outpatient mental health services, linking students to mental health services through the School Integration Project; and training clinicians, community residents, and para-professionals on reducing the suicide rate.

LADPH, LADHS, and LADMH are taking action to address the unique health challenges presented in the AV. In order to continue meeting the health needs of L.A. County’s diverse SPAs, the County must continue monitoring the changing demographic and socioeconomic conditions of each one.  A map with SPA boundaries is provided below.

 For more information on AV community health needs, please visit the Board memorandum.


[1] 71% White, 18% Hispanic, 7% African American, and 3% Asian/Pacific Islander

[2] 43% White, 38% Hispanic, 14% African American, and 4% Asian/Pacific Islander

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