County of Marin - News Releases - County Health Rankings

For Immediate Release
March 14, 2018

Marin Regains Ranking as Healthiest County in State

Work remains for health disparities and substance misuse

San Rafael, CA – For the eighth time, Marin has been ranked the healthiest county in California by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The 2018 County Health Rankings surveys more than 3,000 counties to measure how healthy residents are and how long they live.

A woman wearing a paper hat with fruit images on it holds up brochures about healthy eating.Marin HHS hosts several events each year to promote healthy living.
“The rankings highlight some of the healthiest aspects of our county. There’s a lot to celebrate here,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer. “For example, high rates of regular physical activity, and healthy nutrition contribute directly to our long life expectancy.”

In Marin, one third of residents live within walking distance of a County park or preserve. Spending time outdoors improves both physical and mental health.

However, behind some of those high overall scores there are important gaps. Marin ranked 53rd out of 57 counties in income inequality, the ratio between those with the highest incomes (above 80 percent of the median) and the lowest incomes (below 20 percent of the median).

“Our ranking doesn’t tell the whole story,” Willis said. “When we dig deeper, we see real gaps.”

In Marin County, black and Hispanic children are more than two times more likely to experience poverty that their white counterparts, for example. “Conversations about race and equity become more relevant when we see those patterns,” Willis added.

When it comes to opportunities to live a long and healthy life, a few miles can make an enormous difference. There is a 15-year difference in life expectancy between Ross (94) and Marin City (79), a disparity that correlates with per capita income.

“The goal is to extend those health benefits enjoyed by many in Marin, to all in Marin,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services.

Marin HHS is implementing new strategies to support the county’s most vulnerable residents. That includes the recent Whole Person Care initiative designed to enhance case management and secure stable housing for Marin residents with the highest utilization of hospital emergency department and 911 calls.

“We know that we can do a better job supporting these most vulnerable and most costly clients through stronger partnerships across the housing and health care sectors,” Colfax said. 

In Marin, excessive drinking is among the highest in the state, as are motor vehicle deaths related to alcohol intoxication. An estimated 20 percent of Marin adults report binge or heavy drinking in the last 30 days.

Marin is also home to strong grassroots coalitions to raise awareness and design local solutions for substance use and addiction, including the Marin Prevention Network and RxSafe Marin

“Our community has come together to address the issues of substance use head-on,” said Board of Supervisors President Damon Connolly. “We’re also fortunate in Marin County to have strong safety-net health care providers that help to even the playing field on access to quality health care.”

The Marin County Board of Supervisors has made equity a priority. For instance:

  • It has made a commitment to preserve existing affordable housing, explore ways to acquire more affordable housing and encourage landlords to adhere to voluntary rent guidelines.
  • Marin County Parks has developed programs designed to help more Marin residents, especially the underserved, to visit and enjoy parks and open spaces.
  • The Marin County Fair has partnered for over 14 years to build and maintain a healthy and successful fair.
  • The Department of Public Works is diligent in its efforts to improve disability access and safety at County-maintained facilities.

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Dr. Matthew Willis
Public Health Officer
Health and Human Services

3240 Kerner Blvd.
San Rafael, CA 94901
(415) 473-4163
Email: Dr. Matthew Willis
Marin HHS website