The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department released its subpopulation analysis of the City of Santa Maria Tuesday.
The analysis, which was part of the 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment, looks into why Santa Maria city residents have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the rest of Santa Barbara County.
Officials said only 25% of the county's population lives in Santa Maria, but 37.3% of county COVID-related deaths and 29.9% of County cases have been among Santa Maria residents.
In October, 2022, the public health department, along with Cottage Health, surveyed 192 random households over 3 days. The data was then weighted to represent all households in Santa Maria.
The study found that 55% of Santa Maria households spoke primarily Spanish at home and that 60% of households rented their home. The values are much higher than that of the County.
Officials pointed this data was significant because the study showed households where English was not the primary language have a higher chance of falling under the federal poverty level, have a household member employed seasonally, and/ or suffer from food insecurity.
The report also identified some impacts of the COVID pandemic.
Over a third of households cited the pandemic was currently causing job and/ or wage loss, reduction of work hours and financial problems, according to the press release.
15% of the Santa Maria households surveyed said they had someone suffering from long COVID in the last year.
“The Santa Maria Needs Assessment was a great opportunity for the Health Department to learn more about those living in our largest city in the County. The findings show that Santa Maria households have unique needs and attributes compared to the rest of the County. This information is important for planning,” said Joy Jacobsen, Senior Epidemiologist.
Based on the data collected, the report recommended actions such as increased community education on safety net programs and investing in expanding cross-cutting efforts to address social determinants of health.
The public health department and Cottage Health planned to present their findings to the community this summer.