California has seen an 11 percent decrease in the number of births to teen mothers, according to a series of reports released by the Central Valley Health Policy Institute at Fresno State.

“This is a similar trend observed in each of the eight San Joaquin Valley counties,” said Emanuel Alcala, report co-author and research associate with the institute.

Findings from the report, “Individual and Neighborhood Characteristics: Adolescent Health in the San Joaquin Valley” show that although the San Joaquin Valley has some of the highest rates of teen birth in California, there has been a dramatic reduction in recent years, from 43 per 1,000 births to 32 per 1,000 births.

However, the San Joaquin Valley has higher rates of premature births at 9.4 percent, compared to 8.8 percent statewide. In particular, women of color with low education and prior preterm births, as well as those in communities with high diesel pollution and low economic opportunity, were at greatest risk.

That is just one of the key findings released in the reports, which show how social and environmental determinants are key factors of morbidity and mortality rates in children, young women and older adults throughout their lifespan.


The California Endowment and the San Joaquin Valley Public Health Consortium commissioned the institute to produce an analysis of the current health landscape throughout the region using data from eight county health departments: Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tulare.

“We selected three stages throughout the life course and focused on the most pressing health concerns within each phase of life,” Alcala said. “In turn, these health challenges reflect some of the greatest health burdens within the San Joaquin Valley region.”

In another report, titled “Individual and Neighborhood Characteristics: Preventable Childhood Illness,” findings indicate that children who are non-white and underserved, living in more stressful and harmful neighborhood environments have fewer resources to address health challenges and experience less access to preventable care – leading to increased hospitalizations for preventable illnesses.

“For example, when examining emergency department visits in children for ambulatory care-sensitive conditions, we found health disparities by age, sex, race/ethnicity and insurance coverage,” Alcala said. “Furthermore, we demonstrated that neighborhood factors such as poverty, pollution and geographic distance to the hospital influence health care utilization beyond individual characteristics.”

The report indicates if all children experienced rates of hospitalizations similar to those of white children living in low poverty communities, $19.1 million would be saved — a reduction of 62.3 percent in direct hospitalization costs.


According to the third report, “Individual and Neighborhood Characteristics: Longevity for San Joaquin Valley Elders,” individuals living in the San Joaquin Valley suffer from premature death (before age 65) at a greater rate than those living in other regions of the state. This is particularly true of Latino and African American males who live in areas that are less walkable and have higher rates of poverty. This contrasts with national figures that indicate 81 percent of U.S. residents are expected to live past age 65.

“The San Joaquin Valley has a history of low wages, low-cost housing and high rates of poverty,” Alcala said. “These economic circumstances may work to attract vulnerable populations that may not be able to afford the cost of living in other places around California. The accumulation of socioeconomic deprivation and harsh working conditions may be contributing to lack of health care access and ultimately to premature mortality.”

These studies include data collected from 2009 to 2014 from the California Statewide Department of Public Health and the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.

For more information, contact Emanuel Alcala at 559.228.2128 or, or Dr. John Capitman at 559.228.2150 or

View original press release at