Los Angeles County ranks among the worst of California's 58 counties in deaths caused by heart disease and diabetes, according to a report released this week by the California Department of Public Health.
Local health officials said the poor rankings -- 46th in deaths from diabetes and 48th in deaths from coronary heart disease -- are a continued sign that obesity-related deaths are a major problem in the county.
"Our obesity rates have continued to go up, our diabetes rates have continued to go up, both of which are quite disturbing," said Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Jonathan Fielding.
Fielding said more needs to be done to increase physical activity among county residents and stem poor nutrition, obesity and untreated high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Fielding said such rankings demonstrate the importance of having good access to parks and other places where people can safely exercise and making people aware of the high salt and caloric content found in some restaurant meals and processed foods.
He cautioned against frequent meals at restaurants, noting that studies show that, in general, people who eat out, eat more calories per meal.
"If you're going to eat out, you better really ask yourselves about portion size and total calories," Fielding said.
The findings come as local and state governments have been pushing for increased food regulation in recent years. In September, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation requiring chain restaurants to display calorie counts with each menu item, the first state law of its kind in the nation.
The law goes into effect this summer and applies to restaurants with 20 or more locations in the state, which will affect 17,000 establishments. Beginning July 1, chain restaurants must start providing brochures listing the calories and the grams of saturated fat for each menu item; on Jan. 1, 2011, all menus and menu boards will have to include the caloric information with each item.
In other areas, L.A. County also lagged in breast-feeding rates.
Sexually transmitted diseases were also a problem; rates for AIDS, chlamydia and gonorrhea were among the state's worst.
In terms of violent deaths, L.A. County had one of the worst homicide rates in the state, coming in at 53rd.
The county, however, had one of the lowest rates for suicide, at fourth.
Among positive trends, L.A. County ranked better than most others in deaths from unintentional injuries, deaths from lung cancer and deaths from motor vehicle traffic. The county also scored well for making sure mothers received prenatal care.
Fielding attributed some of those successes with prohibitions on smoking in public, enforcement of seat belt and child car seat laws, and a reduction in drunk driving.
The county's rankings were published recently by the California Department of Public Health.
The rankings cover deaths between 2005 and 2007.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
L.A. County death rates
Los Angeles County deaths per 100,000 population, annual average (2005-07):
CAUSE: DEATH RATE *
All causes: 644.4
Heart disease: 160.9
All cancers: 149.2
Lung cancer: 33.4
Respiratory disease: 32.0
Breast cancer: 21.5
Prostate cancer: 21.3
Alzheimer's disease: 18.1
Colon cancer: 14.9
Chronic liver disease: 11.1
Motor vehicles: 9.1
Source: California Department of Public Health