Marin Healthiest County in California for Third Straight Year
Marin County is ranked the healthiest in California due to its low rates of smoking, obesity and teen pregnancy.
The University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute along with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released the rankings Tuesday after comparing counties throughout the state on both their physical and socioeconomic factors.
Santa Clara, San Benito, Placer and San Mateo were ranked as the top healthiest counties behind Marin. Trinity, Del Norte, Siskiyou, Tehama and Lake were in the bottom five.
The health of the counties were based on several main factors: premature deaths, low-birth-weight infants, the percentage of people who say they are in poor or fair health, and the number of days people reported being in poor physical or mental health. The researchers put an emphasis on obesity rates after adding new measures this year, including number of fast food restaurants in the county and level of residents' physical activity. They also looked at smoking and obesity rates, teen births, childhood poverty rates, education, air pollution levels, and preventable hospital visits.
With those factors in mind, researches ranked Los Angeles County 28 out of the 56 counties in California. According to the study, 22 percent of adults in L.A. County are obese, 19 percent are inactive, 16 percent drink excessively, and 22 percent reported being in poor or fair health.
According to Dr. Patrick Remington, Associate Dean for Public Health at the University of Wisconsin, the rankings are designed to motivate each county to take the necessary steps to improve their health.
"It serves as a call to action for people to think about how their community compares to others," Dr. Patrick said.
L.A. County is taking steps to raise its rating by focusing on crime, air pollution, and smoking rates. Earlier this year, the county supervisors approved an ordinance requiring new developments to have wide sidewalks and bicycle parking to promote exercise and reduce obesity.
Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Director of Public Health for L.A. County, understands that it will take some time to increase the county's health, but he see the rating as a source of motivation. "We want to do better," Dr. Fielding said. "There is no question about that. But we are a very large, diverse county, and we have the diversity of problems along with that."
San Bernardino County has already implemented new programs to improve its 41 ranking. The county is pushing for cities to change zoning policies to allow community gardens. San Bernardino is also looking to start cooking classes and walking clubs.
Still, San Bernardino's high levels of air pollution and widespread unemployment leave room for improvement. "Every year we take the rankings very seriously," San Bernardino County health officer Dr. Maxwell Ohikhuare said. "We have made incremental improvement, but we still feel that there are a lot of challenges ahead of us."