San Rafael, CA – Marin has been ranked the healthiest of California’s 58 counties because of its high scores in quality of life, clinical care, and social and economic factors, according to the 2022 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps released April 27.
The rankings, released annually by the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, allows counties across the nation to measure community health and well-being over time. Marin has been ranked No. 1 for 12 of the 13 years the rankings have been compiled.
Although Marin is the healthiest county in California, Marin County Public Health is determined to improve health conditions in communities of color.
The rankings place greatest weight on longevity, or life expectancy. The average Marin resident can expect to live 85.2 years, among the longest in the state and nation. The report highlights specific factors that support health and longevity at a community level, and Marin ranks highly in almost all areas including access to high- quality health care, clear air and water, and access to green space and healthy foods.
“There’s lots to celebrate here,” said Dr. Matt Willis, County of Marin Public Health Officer. “But when we look at a single number for something like life expectancy, as a county average, it doesn’t tell the whole story. When we dig deeper, we see our high ranking doesn’t capture the reality for many of our residents.”
While Marin consistently fares well in most measures, the county falls short in the same two areas year after year: high rates of health inequities between communities, and substance use.
Life expectancy among African American residents in Marin County is 78.2 years, a difference of seven years from the county-wide average. That echoes the findings of the recently released Race Counts report, that found Marin to be the second most racially disparate county in the state. These known disparities fuel the County’s work to address factors of mental health and housing, as outlined in the 2022 Race Equity Plan.
Marin scored poorly for a lack of affordable housing and limited access to reliable high-speed internet. Among Marin’s most recent efforts to address limited access to reliable internet is the 2020 launch of Digital Marin, a cross-sector collaborative working toward a future in which everyone in Marin has access to internet that is accessible.
“This data shows that we have a lot of work ahead and all in Marin deserve the opportunity to live a long and healthy life,” said Elyse Rainey, Health and Human Services Equity Manager. “We will continue to stay committed to health and wellness for all through our equity strategy, implementation, and evaluation practices. Most recently, this commitment can be seen through partnerships with community-based organizations to co-design health initiatives including the expanded use of community health workers to provide neighborhood-based culturally relevant care and increased health access for historically underserved communities.”
Marin saw progress in some indicators related to substance use compared with previous years. The proportion of fatal car accidents in which alcohol was involved decreased since last year’s rankings, from one in three to one in four traffic fatalities. Still, compared to other counties, Marin has among the highest rates of excessive alcohol use among adults, as measured by the percent of adults who report regular binge drinking.
“Addressing the problem of substance use remains a high priority across all divisions in Health and Humans Services, Behavioral Health, Public Health, and Social Services,” said Jei Africa, HHS’ Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Director. “To tackle to complex problem of substance use we’re pulling together across sectors including those families have been affected by these issues.”
Willis added: “As we celebrate our accomplishments it is also important for us as a Marin County community to face our shortcomings head on. It’s easy to be falsely reassured and miss the message that not everyone has the same opportunity for health in Marin. This report informs and reinforce the County’s commitment to advancing racial equity for all residents.”
Each year, the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute changes the factors evaluated in the rankings to match emerging public health issues.
Visit www.MarinHHS.org for more information or review Marin’s ranking in more detail at CountyHealthRankings.org.