San Rafael, CA – For the ninth time in 10 years, Marin has been ranked the healthiest county in California by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The 2019 County Health Rankings, released March 19, evaluates counties across the nation to measure how healthy residents are and how long they live.
“The rankings highlight what so many of us love about living in Marin,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer. “We have great access to green space and opportunities for physical activity, nutritious local foods, and high-quality health care. All of these things contribute to health and longevity.”
Excellent access to nature is one of Marin’s top traits and aids with lifelong health. These youngsters are enjoying a day in Roys Redwoods Open Space Preserve in the San Geronimo Valley.
Marin scored highest in life expectancy statewide, with San Mateo and Santa Clara counties following closely.
“One of the healthiest habits in Marin is a strong history of policies designed to protect health,” said Dr. Kim Newell-Green, President of the San Francisco Marin Medical Society. “The recent decisions to prevent the sales of flavored tobacco and vaping products is a clear example.”
While Marin scored near the top in most health factors, there are important exceptions. Housing affordability, income inequality, high rates of substance use, and racial disparities in health were highlighted as weaknesses in Marin’s health profile. Among 58 California counties, Marin ranked 39th in housing cost burden, 54th in income inequality, and 48th in high rates of binge drinking.
The results also show clear racial disparities in health in Marin. African American and Latino children are four and eight times more likely, respectively, to live in poverty than their white counterparts. While Marin ranks first in clinical care, these benefits differ among racial groups. For example, mammography rates for African American women are less than half of the rates among white women.
“When the disparities start at birth and persist into adulthood, it’s no wonder we see differences in life expectancy between racial groups,” said Jenny Chacón, Chief Strategy Officer for the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services. Chacon is spearheading the Strategic Plan to Achieve Health and Wellness Equity.
“The first step is acknowledging that race matters in Marin,” she said, “and that we all have work to do to raise the bar for all families.”
Kari Beuerman, Director of Social Services for Marin HHS, noted that the county is home to a growing senior population. In fact, Marin has the oldest population of any county in the state, and it’s estimated that one-third of the local population will be 60 or older by 2030.
“Along with optimal health and longevity outcomes comes increased responsibility,” Beuerman said. “The needs, perspectives, and points of view of our older residents should be taken into account when looking at issues such as transportation, housing, recreation, and access to programs and services.”
Each year the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation changes the factors evaluated in the rankings to match emerging public health issues.
“Our ranking shows what we can accomplish when we come together to build a healthy community,” said Kate Sears, President of the Marin County Board of Supervisors. “Our goal is to sustain our focus on health as we face new challenges, including an aging population, health disparities, and climate change.
Visit www.marinhhs.org for more information.