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Marin County is the Healthiest in California, Say New Rankings

March 14, 2018

New State Report Shows Differences in Health by Place and by Race

Marin County ranks healthiest in California and Lake County is the least healthy county in the state, according to the ninth annual County Health Rankings, released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI). The Rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org.

“The County Health Rankings crystalize what we know from practice: the factors that shape health and determine who has access to it are deeply embedded in our society,” said Mary A. Pittman, DrPH, CEO and president of the Public Health Institute, which helps disseminate the County Health Rankings in California. “To address health we must address housing, education, childcare and other social determinants. And to address those, we must face the impact of racism, income inequality and immigration policy in communities.”

An easy-to-use snapshot that compares counties within states, the Rankings show that where you live influences how well and how long you live. The local-level data make it clear that good health is influenced by many factors beyond medical care including housing, education, and jobs. This year’s new Rankings State Reports show meaningful gaps in health persist not only by place, but also by race and ethnicity. Looking at differences by place and race offers a more complete picture of health. This year’s analyses show that lack of opportunity, such as education, jobs, and affordable housing, disproportionately affects people of color across the nation and within California.

The new Rankings State Reports call attention to key drivers of health such as children in poverty. Poverty limits opportunity and increases the chance of poor health. Children in poverty are less likely to have access to well-resourced and quality schools, and have fewer chances to be prepared for living wage jobs. The California State Report reveals that in California, 20 percent of children live in poverty, which is the same as the U.S. rate. Among racial and ethnic groups in California, rates of children in poverty range from 11 percent to 39 percent with American Indian/Alaskan Native children faring the worst and White children faring the best.

Pittman pointed to cross-sector efforts as part of the solution, including the Center to Advance Community Health & Equity (CACHE), which provides evidence-informed tools and technical assistance to support strategic health improvement approaches in communities where health inequities are concentrated. San Diego County’s move up the Rankings is at least in part due to the Live Well San Diego vision, which has been bringing together partners from across the county to build health.

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Our children will become more resilient, and grow into stronger, healthier adults with greater economic opportunities if we build communities with quality education, emotional and social support, access to quality health care, and safe, affordable, and stable housing.

“We can’t be a healthy, thriving nation if we continue to leave entire communities and populations behind,” said Richard Besser, MD, RWJF president and CEO. “Every community should use their County Health Rankings data, work together, and find solutions so that all babies, kids, and adults – regardless of their race or ethnicity – have the same opportunities to be healthy.”

According to the 2018 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in California, starting with most healthy, are Marin County, followed by San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Placer County, and Napa County. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are Lake County, Siskiyou County, Plumas County, Trinity County, and Modoc County.

“The time is now to address long-standing challenges like child poverty,” said Julie Willems Van Dijk, PhD, RN, director of County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. “This year’s Rankings are a call to action to see how these persistent health gaps play out locally, take an honest look at their root causes, and work together to give everyone a fair shot at a healthier life.”




The Public Health Institute, an independent nonprofit organization, is dedicated to promoting health, well-being and quality of life for people throughout California, across the nation and around the world.


For more information about the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation visit rwjf.org.

For more information about the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute visit uwphi.pophealth.wisc.edu.