Marin County is the healthiest county in America for children, according to a new ranking by U.S. News & World Report.
Rated on a continuum of 0 to 100, Marin scored a perfect 100. San Francisco was ranked No. 2. Other California counties earning high grades were San Mateo at No. 9 and Placer at No. 11. Yolo was ranked No. 24 and Sonoma came in No. 49.
The rankings of 1,200 counties in the United States were developed with the help of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, which in a separate analysis has rated Marin the healthiest county in California for four years running.
Larry Meredith, director of the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services, was not self-congratulatory, however.
"It doesn't tell the story of those kids who are not doing as well as others. Those who are living in poverty," Meredith said. The health of children within Marin can vary dramatically depending on their ZIP code, he said.
Meredith said Marin's access to parks and open space helps promote kids' health by encouraging an active lifestyle. He said the county deserves some credit, however, for its efforts to discourage smoking and promote healthier eating.
"We're working with the schools to ensure there are healthy foods available in school vending machines," Meredith said.
Bridget Catlin, director of the county health rankings program for the University of Wisconsin, said in a statement: "Everybody lives in an
environment that helps them to be healthy or is detrimental to health. It starts with a mother's health, her health behaviors during pregnancy, the care she gets during pregnancy and what environment a child lives in after birth. A parent can't feed a child healthy food if there's no healthy food to be found."
Marin earned its perfect score by ranking high on such statistics as babies born with low birth weight, infant death rates, teen birth rates, children in poverty and injury death rate for children under age 19.
According to the report, 6.3 percent of children born in Marin weigh less than 5.5 pounds compared with 7.9 percent for the U.S. median. Marin County's infant death rate of 319.2 per 100,000 compared with the U.S. median of 697.2. The county's teen birth rate of 13.6 per 1,000 compared with 44 for the U.S. median.
The report found that 10.8 percent of Marin's children live in poverty compared with 24 percent for the national median. The injury death rate for children under age 19 per 100,000 was reported as 8.7, compared with 21.7 for the national median.
The report said that even the highest-ranking counties, such as Marin, have areas where they could improve. For example, it pointed out that though Marin has relatively low rates of teen births and children in poverty, they are almost twice as high as fifth-ranked Ozaukee County in Wisconsin.
Contact Richard Halstead via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org ___