For Immediate ReleaseMarch 25, 2015
Highest among California counties, but economic disparity a major concern
San Rafael, CA – Marin County is rated as the healthiest county in California for the sixth year in a row, but statistics show a significant income gap among residents that can cause poor health for people whose circumstances have made them more vulnerable.
Marin was ranked No. 1 statewide 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, ranging from individual health outcome such as life expectancy to factors associated with health such as clinical care, behaviors and the physical environment. This year, in addition to the usual measures, the foundation added income inequality as a social and economic factor.
Compared to other California counties, Marin ranked poorly in income inequality and had high levels of excessive drinking, alcohol-impaired driving, and drug poisoning deaths. Marin ranked 54th out of 57 responding counties in income inequality, which measured the difference between those earning at the 20th percentile of household income versus the 80th percentile.
“We may be the healthiest county overall, but there is still much work to be done,” said Katie Rice, Marin County Board of Supervisors President.
Staff from the County’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said a high cost of living in Marin causes poorer residents to be segregated in certain neighborhoods and schools, breaking down social connections and causing stress. The income gap and related stressors lead to poor health outcomes for residents who are struggling to meet basic needs, especially children.
“Health begins in our homes, neighborhoods, schools and jobs,” said Dr. Larry Meredith, Director of Marin Health and Human Services. “We need to focus on policies and programs that increase opportunities for residents who are struggling to make ends meet so that we can raise the bar for everyone.”
High quality childcare and preschool for all children will help them get ready for kindergarten, a key predictor of academic success. Affordable rental housing and programs that help lower-income and middle-class families achieve home ownership is an important step in building intergenerational wealth. Increasing the minimum wage can also help working families and boost the local economy.
Several regional and local initiatives such as Rise Together, Marin Promise and Marin Strong Start are working on alleviating poverty and setting the foundation for future success for all Marin residents.
Among the good news, Marin ranked No. 1 for lowest teen birth rate, lowest percentage of uninsured adults, lowest unemployment, and highest food environment index. Marin also ranks well for premature death before age 75, adult obesity, adult physical inactivity, primary care physicians per capita, mental health providers per capita, violent crime, uninsured children, and children eligible for free lunch programs.
For five years in a row, more than one in four adults in Marin report binge drinking. Growing concerns about both alcohol and drug use have led to widespread community action. Coalitions in Mill Valley, Larkspur, Corte Madera, West Marin and Novato are all working on community-based solutions around better enforcement of laws known to reduce drinking and promoting a culture where alcohol abuse is not the norm. Launched in 2013, RxSafe Marin is a coalition of community members and experts tackling the local prescription drug misuse and abuse epidemic. Strategies include working with prescribers toward judicious prescription practices, promoting safe medication storage in homes and increased medication take-back sites.
Good health and long life expectancy has led to Marin’s No. 1 ranking as the county with the oldest median resident age of 45.5 years, according to a new study by the Association of Bay Area Governments. In 2030, an estimated one in four Marin residents will be over age 65, compared to one in five today. The Marin County Health and Human Services Aging and Adult Services is poised to act and advocate for the needs of our changing demographics with its many community partners. The Commission on Aging advises the Marin County Board of Supervisors and has monthly public meetings.
For more information, see our 2015 Marin Health Ranking Fact Sheet.
Dr. Matthew WillisPublic Health OfficerHealth and Human Services
3240 Kerner Blvd.San Rafael, CA 94901(415) 473-4163Email: Dr. Matthew WillisMarin HHS website