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Marin Named Healthiest County In California

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Mountain biking, a good way to stay in shape, was invented in Marin County.
Mountain biking, a good way to stay in shape, was invented in Marin County.

For the third consecutive year, Marin was named the healthiest county in all of California.

In a national study conducted by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the affluent San Francisco suburb got top marks in a comprehensive evaluation that considered a whole host of factors affecting individual health ranging from premature death, obesity and smoking to social and economic issues such as high school graduation rate, incidents of violent crime and the prevalence of fast food restaurants.

“The County Health Rankings show us that much of what influences our health happens outside of the doctor’s office," said Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President Risa Lavizzo-Mourey in a statement. "In fact, where we live, learn, work and play has a big role in determining how healthy we are and how long we live."

Marin fared well in virtually all of the categories measured, scoring above the 90th percentile nationally in most categories save for binge drinking, percentage of people with at least some college, children living in single parent households and the violent crime rate.

24 percent of county residents admitted to at least occasional binge drinking, consuming more than four to five drinks in a single sitting--three times the national average.

"The binge drinking continues to be an issue. We know it's consistent across all age groups," Larry Meredith, director of the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services told the Marin Independent Journal. "It's clearly on everybody's radar."

Despite Marin's overall clean bill of health, some critics charge that assessing its population at the county level misses wide divergence in health outcomes between Marin's largely affluent population and its various pockets of extreme poverty.

"While Marin County as a whole fares well on the majority of health indicators, not everyone in Marin is enjoying the same level of health," read a report on health inequality in the Marin by the county's Department of Health and Human Services. "Significant differences in health behaviors and health outcomes."

Marin has both the state's highest population of college graduates and lowest unemployment rate.

Santa Clara and San Benito counties joined Marin at the top of the list. The counties in the state with the lowest rankings--Trinity, Del Norte and Siskiyou--are all located in the far northern portion of the state.

Generally, health factors were better in counties along the state's central and southern coastline and gradually worsened moving northward and inland.

San Francisco finished 24th out of the 56 counties rated.

Take a look at the top ten healthiest California counties below:

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Filed by Aaron Sankin