In the third year of rankings of the health of each county–across the country–Marin came in as the “most healthy” county in California. Trinity County in far northern California ranked as the least-healthy county. Below is a snapshot of how California’s counties fared.
What you see above is a screen grab, because I can’t capture the interactivity of the map, but if you click on the image or right here you can look at your own county.
The rankings were compiled by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Researchers looked at a number of factors, starting with mortality (or “years of potential life lost before age 75”) and low birth-weight babies. But they looked at a wide range of other conditions as well, including diet and exercise, education, community safety, air pollution and number of fast food restaurants in a county.
Of the five healthiest counties, three (Marin, Santa Clara, San Mateo) were in the Bay Area. Of the five least healthy, all were rural counties (Lake, Tehama, Siskiyou, Del Norte, Trinity). This was not a surprise to Sana Chemini, Program Director at Oakland’s Prevention Institute. “Rural counties … tend to have disproportionate lack of access to basic resources. Yes, there’s a lot of open space, but that can also mean you have to travel much, much further to access healthy food. Or there can be a lot of open space, but that doesn’t mean there are safe play areas for kids.”
The County Rankings have proven to be a driver for change in poorer-performing counties in other parts of the country. “This annual check-up helps bring county leaders together to see where they need to improve,” Dr. Patrick Remington of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health said in a statement. “It’s really exciting to see that the Rankings continue to serve as a call to action to take steps to improve the health of communities.
Chehimi stressed the comprehensive approach that counties must look to in order to improve the health of its people. “There’s not one thing that counties can do to improve their rankings, they’re going to have to look broadly,” Chehimi says. “It’s really about taking a comprehensive approach and evidence shows that that’s really what works. They’re going to have to address how they can increase access to healthy foods, how they can decrease smoking, how they can increase access to education and employment.”