The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department has released online the 2011 Community Health Status Report with information about the leading causes of death and disease among Santa Barbara County residents.

The purpose of the report is to inform community leaders, local professionals and the general public so they can take appropriate actions that support longer healthier lives.

“Collecting data and analyzing trends gives us a better understanding of where we are and how we, as a community and as the Public Health Department, should focus our attention and resources,” said Dr. Takashi Wada, director of public health, and health officer for Santa Barbara County.

The report examines the 2,917 deaths that occurred in 2008 in Santa Barbara County. Half of the deaths were caused by heart disease and cancer. Heart disease was the leading cause of death, stroke was the second-leading cause of death and lung cancer was the third-leading cause of death for all residents.

The report also identifies the 15 leading causes of premature death among Santa Barbara County residents during 2008. More than a quarter of all deaths were considered premature, that is, occurred among people younger than age 75, resulting in more than 17,000 years of life lost. The leading cause of premature death is heart disease, as it is for all deaths. The second and third causes of premature death are motor vehicle accidents and accidental drug overdose. Many of the premature deaths were associated with preventable illness or injury based on unhealthy behaviors.

Obesity posed the greatest threat to the health and lives of the largest number of county residents. Obesity-related illness such as heart disease stroke, hypertension, diabetes and various cancers contributed to hundreds of deaths, and thousands of years of life lost to premature death.

Click here to view the complete report.

— Susan Klein-Rothschild is a public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.