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February 24, 2010 > Santa Clara County one of the healthiest California counties

Santa Clara County one of the healthiest California counties

Submitted By Joy Alexiou

Santa Clara County has some of the healthiest residents in California according to a new report released on February 17 by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The County Health Rankings are the first to rank the overall health of counties in all 50 states, more than 3,000 in total, by using a standard formula to measure how healthy people are and how long they live.

According to the report, a number of factors were used to determine the differences in overall health of a community. They range from individual behavior to access to health care to education and jobs to food access to air quality. Since these factors can be influenced by public policy and community-based programs, the report provides community leaders with valuable information to assist them in making decisions and changes that will improve the community's health.

"Health is far more than what happens inside the doctor's office and this report sheds light on what it takes to make a healthy community," said Ken Yeager, President of the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. "Santa Clara County's high ranking should serve as an inspiration for government and community partners to come together to do even better."

"It is incredibly helpful to get this information," stated Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Santa Clara County Health Officer. "While the overall news about the health of Santa Clara County residents is very good, we know there are significant differences among residents of this community. For example, we know our lower income and out-of-work residents face barriers of access to health services. So we still have a lot of work to do to ensure the best health for our community."

"We want to do all we can to support better health outcomes for our residents," said Liz Kniss, Chair of the Board's Health and Hospital Committee. "The County's leadership on menu labeling is an example of how we create policies to support a healthy community."

"For the first time we can compare the overall health of our county to the health of other counties in our state and nation," commented Dan Peddycord, Director of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department. "We all have a stake in the health of our community. By working together we can find ways to keep our residents healthy and continue to make progress in areas where improvements are needed."

Santa Clara County ranks fourth for health outcomes and third for health factors of the 56 California counties surveyed (Alpine and Sierra counties were not surveyed).

Overall health, or "Health Outcomes," measure how healthy a county is based on mortality and morbidity. The mortality rank, representing length of life, is based on a measure of premature death and the years of potential life lost prior to age 75. The morbidity rank is based on measures that represent health-related quality of life and birth outcomes, such as the percent of births with low birth weight.

"Health Factors" measure influences on the health of the county. The factors measured includes Health Behavior (tobacco and alcohol use, diet and exercise, unsafe sex), Clinical Care (quality of and access to health services), Social and Economic (education, employment, income, support, community safety), and Physical Environment (environmental quality and built environment).

According to the rankings, California's 10 healthiest counties are, from 1st to 10th: Marin, San Benito, Colusa, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Placer, Orange, Santa Cruz, Sonoma and El Dorado. The 10 counties in the poorest health are Del Norte, Siskiyou, Lake, Trinity, Yuba, Kern, Inyo, Tulare, Madera and Modoc.

The online report, available at, provides a snapshot of each county in California and compares each county's overall health ranking.

Santa Clara County ranking out of 56 counties surveyed:

Overall Health Outcomes #4
Mortality #2
Morbidity #19
Overall Health Factors #3
Health Behaviors #1
Clinical Care #10
Social & Economic #3
Physical Environment #34

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