For Immediate ReleaseApril 04, 2023
Despite retaining top spot, work continues to tackle inequities
San Rafael, CA – Marin County again has been ranked the healthiest of California’s 58 counties because of its relatively low burden of premature deaths, high scores in quality of life, clinical care, and social and economic factors, according to the 2023 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps released March 29.
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 13 of the 14 years the rankings have been compiled.
Although Marin is consistently ranked among the healthiest counties in California, Marin County Public Health is determined to improve health for all and reduce disparities.
The rankings place greatest weight on quality and length of life. The average Marin resident can expect to live 85.2 years, among the longest in the 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, clean 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. “The rankings reinforce what we’re doing right and show us where we have work to do. It’s important to see that a single ranking can hide real disparities in Marin.”
While Marin consistently fares well in most measures, the county falls short in the same two areas year after year: health inequities between communities, and high rates of substance use.
Life expectancy among African American residents in Marin County is 78.3 years, a difference of nearly seven years from the countywide average. The rankings also highlight racial disparities that continue to drive the gap in life expectancy, including disparities in income, housing, health care, and education.
Those known inequities fuel the County’s work to address factors including mental health and housing, as outlined in Marin County’s 2022 Race Equity Plan and the 2018 Health and Human Services Plan for Health and Wellness Equity.
To better inform health equity efforts, Marin County Public Health is developing a data dashboard to describe life expectancy and causes of preventable deaths in all Marin communities. The local data will allow County and community partners to develop informed, equity-focused interventions and help residents participate in improving the health of their own neighborhoods through participation in initiatives such as the County’s participatory budgeting process.
"We remain committed to doing the hard work and changing the outcomes so all in Marin can thrive and live healthy lives," said Niccore Tyler, Marin Health and Human Services’ Chief Strategy Officer.
“During the pandemic, the success of COVID-19 Community Response Teams demonstrated the value of leading our work through an equity lens to achieve equitable outcomes,” she continued. “While Marin is a healthy place for many, we must recognize that the benefits of our thriving county are not jointly shared. Race is the largest determining factor for outcomes related to health, wealth, and overall quality of life. This is why we, as a county, must continue to lead with race in achieving equitable health outcomes."
Marin also stands out for higher than state-average overdose deaths. High rates of substance use in all Marin communities is a consistent theme in the rankings. New efforts to curb overdose include the launch of OD Free Marin, a countywide coalition to promote awareness, increase the availability of the overdose reversal spray naloxone, and increase access to substance abuse treatment and mental health services.
Todd Schirmer, Director of Marin County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, said Marin residents are dying from substance use at alarming rates, impacting families, schools, and communities.
“Substance use is a complex problem and requires innovative, system-wide solutions,” Schirmer said. “Marin is increasing its investments to flatten the overdose curve in multiple areas, including deploying additional substance use care navigators, enhancing outreach efforts to overdose survivors, and implementing naloxone vending machines throughout the county.”
Willis concluded, “This report reinforces key lessons of the pandemic. While we’re fortunate to live in a healthy community, significant gaps remain. We’ll have a lot more to celebrate when everyone in Marin has the same chance for a long and healthy life.”
Each year, the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute updates the factors evaluated in the rankings to match emerging public health issues; this year Civic Infrastructure and Participation were added as priority metrics.
Visit www.MarinHHS.org for more information or review Marin’s ranking in more detail at CountyHealthRankings.org.
Benita McLarinDirectorDepartment of Health and Human Services
20 North San Pedro RoadSan Rafael, CA 94903(415) 473-6924CRS Dial 711Email: Benita McLarinMarin HHS webpage