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The healthy Valley conundrum

The healthy Valley conundrum

Picture of Elizabeth Varin

Theoretically, Imperial Valley should be one of the healthiest areas of the nation if you look at food production.

With a more than $1 billion agriculture industry growing almost anything under the sun, including artichokes, bamboo shoots, citrus, hay, leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, and more than 100 other types of crops, residents should have a nearly unlimited supply of fresh fruit, vegetables and meat, leading to a health community.

Yet much of that food is shipped out of the area, and residents, especially children, have some of the highest obesity numbers in the state.  Many people are diabetic and the region has the highest asthma hospitalization rate in the state.

Throughout the next few months I will be looking into what affects people's mortality in Imperial County. Does having the highest unemployment rate and a high food insecurity level affect how old people here grow to be? Do socioeconomic factors contribute to who gets what disease? Is the harsh 120 degree environment a contributing factor?

I don't just want to highlight the bad. While there are negatives to living in the area, there are also positive factors. People move here because it's nearly always sunny and the temperature doesn't get down to freezing. It's a dry, hot environment that is good for some residents with arthritis and respiratory illnesses.

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