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San Mateo Displaces Marin as Healthiest County in California

March 29, 2017

More than 16,000 deaths In the State could be avoided Each Year if all residents had a fair chance to be healthy

Oakland (March 29, 2017) – San Mateo County has overtaken Marin County as the healthiest county in California for the first time, according to the eighth annual County Health Rankings, released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Modoc County remains the least healthy county in the state.

“The 2017 Rankings point to an urgent need to make sure that clinical providers and public health practitioners are working closely together to make sure everyone can access care—and that we are working to prevent people from getting sick in the first place,” said Mary A. Pittman, DrPH, president and CEO of the Public Health Institute, which helps disseminate the County Health Rankings in California.

The County Health Rankings grade counties across the U.S. based on two sets of factors: health outcomes (length and quality of life) and health factors (more than 30 influencers of health). This methodology emphasizes the fact that multiple factors outside the doctor’s office—such as education, housing, income, and access to healthy food— contribute to good health.

This year’s Rankings took a closer look at the number of premature deaths occurring nationwide. According to California’s premature death trends from 1997 to 2014, 42 counties have seen improvements in premature death rates, while three have seen worsening rates and the rest saw no change. More than 16,000 premature deaths in the state could be avoided each year if all residents had the same opportunities for health.

Drug overdose deaths are fueling a dramatic increase in premature deaths nationally due to an increase in deaths among 15 to 44 year olds, according to the 2017 Rankings. In California there were 13,632 drug overdose deaths—a slight increase over last year, with the highest recorded overdose mortality rate in Lake County.

This year’s Rankings also introduced a new measure focused on disconnected young people—those age 16 to 24 who are not in school or working. California’s overall disconnected youth rate is 14 percent, with the highest rates of youth disconnection found in the state's rural, northern regions, such as Lassen County, which has a disconnected youth rate of 49 percent.

“By surfacing issues like drug overdoses, lack of education and job opportunities for youth, and the need for integrated care, the County Health Rankings help us understand where we should be making strategic investments in health,” Pittman said.

The Public Health Institute is leading an assessment of local opioid coalitions for the California Health Care Foundation to determine what works best in stemming the growing opioid epidemic at the community level. Among 16 opioid coalitions representing 24 counties across the state, over 90 percent have introduced safer prescribing guidelines, and more than 75 percent have increased access to naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses.

PHI also has a number of initiatives underway to expand opportunities for young people across the state, including the FACES for the Future Coalition, a school-to-health-career pipeline program that allows disadvantaged youth the opportunity to envision themselves in a productive career in the health professions. Students are paired with mentors and participate in real clinical rotations, work among patients, do skills workshops, take field trips to local colleges, have access to tutoring, and receive personal support from local counselors and teachers. A full 100 percent of FACES students graduate high school, compared with only 40 percent of their peers in some communities, and 9 out of 10 are accepted into post-secondary college or training.




If you are interested in arranging an interview with Mary A. Pittman, DrPH, contact Jennifer Scroggins at (510) 285-5512 or jennifer.scroggins@phi.org.



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.