County of Marin - Press Releases - Health Rankings

For Immediate Release
March 26, 2014

Marin Again Ranked Healthiest County in California

Excess alcohol consumption remains high; drug poisoning deaths a growing concern

San Rafael, CA – For the fifth year in a row, Marin County has been ranked the healthiest county in California by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The annual County Health Rankings compares more than 3,000 counties nationwide according to key indicators of community wellness, from health care quality to social factors associated with health.  

Marin again ranks No. 1 in life expectancy statewide. Marin’s physical and social environment is tailor made for those seeking a healthy lifestyle.  One third of residents live within walking distance of a county park or preserve. Marin benefits from decades of community efforts to preserve open space, promote physical activity and healthy eating, and encourage non-motorized transportation methods.

“There’s plenty to celebrate here, but the rankings mask some real differences in health status between communities within Marin” said Dr. Matt Willis, the County’s Public Health Officer. “For example, in some school districts, half the children are overweight or obese. Supporting these communities in promoting healthy eating and active living is a priority for Health and Human Services.”

The health rankings also highlighted another area of concern: substance use. Marin fared poorly in both excessive alcohol consumption and death rates by drug overdose. Almost one in four (22 percent) of Marin adults surveyed reported binge drinking in the last 30 days, one of the highest rates in the state.

Each year between 2004-2010 (the latest date included in the rankings), an average of 32 Marin residents died each year from drug overdoses, and the majority of those deaths involved prescription drugs. Nationally, drug overdose death rates have been rising steadily with a 102 percent increase from 1999 to 2010.

Marin is mobilizing to address the harms of misuse of medications through the countywide Prescription Drug Task Force. Some of the strategies include working with prescribers toward judicious prescription practices, promoting safe storage of medications in homes, increased take-back sites for unused drugs, and community-wide dialogue to understand the potential harms of prescription drugs.  

Excessive alcohol and substance use has both short-term and long-term social and economic costs, said Larry Meredith, Director of Marin County Department of Health and Human Services. “Community members drinking excessively or misusing prescription drugs are likely not reaching their full potential,” he said. “We are fortunate that strong collaborations such as the Healthy Marin Partnership and local community based coalitions are helping address these critical issues in Marin.”

The new state rankings included statistics from 56 of California's 58 counties.

For more information, see our 2014 Marin Health Ranking Fact Sheet.


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