Sonoma County Report on Health
and Community Well Being
The Portrait of Sonoma County,
a Critical Report on Health and Community Well Being
By Peter Rumble
The Sonoma County Department of Health Services report titled A Portrait of Sonoma County provides the first comprehensive in-depth look at the well being of each neighborhood in the county. The Portrait of Sonoma County, developed in partnership and consultation with over 50 community organizations and leaders, will serve as an invaluable tool for strategic planning, decision-making, and impact evaluation to ensure that all residents have an equal opportunity to succeed.
“Between our natural beauty and thriving agricultural and business sectors, Sonoma County continues to be one of the best places in the world to live. This report highlights that not all of our residents share the same opportunities to meet their full potential,” said David Rabbitt, Chairman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.
The report, which analyzes gaps in local health, income and education data based on geography, race, and gender, finds that the most extreme disparities in basic health, education, and earnings outcomes are often found within small geographical areas; top ranking East Bennett Valley is just 5 miles away from bottom ranking Roseland Creek for example. The report also highlights the importance of equity to the long-term health and prosperity of our community.
On the whole, Sonoma County residents have an average life expectancy of 81 years, which is on par with the state average; however, there is a decade difference that separates life expectancies in the highest and lowest communities in the county. Life expectancy, though, only tells a small part of the story of why place matters. Opportunities to live in a safe community, get a good education, earn a decent living, contribute a meaningful voice to decision-making, and to live a long and healthy life are essential.
The Portrait of Sonoma County shows, consistent with extensive research in other communities, that people from neighborhoods with greater educational and economic opportunities and support live longer healthier lives. In fact, level of education is the single biggest predictor of earnings and is strongly connected to health outcomes for all groups in Sonoma County. These trends start early in life and affect not only residents in distinct areas of the county, but also across racial and ethnic groups. Although A Portrait of Sonoma Countyshines a light on specific and concerning inequities across the county, the report also underscores that these disparities in health and well being are largely preventable through increasing opportunities for quality education, secure jobs, reliable transportation, decent housing and a voice in community decision-making.
The areas explored in the report are directly aligned with County’s Strategic Goals and embodied in County initiatives, such as Health Action and Upstream Investments. Other community organizations and initiatives will also benefit from the data and resources contained in the report, which will help to build a collective response to reduce disparities and achieve our goal of being the healthiest County in the state. “The Portrait of Sonoma County report provides us with the map that we can all use to better coordinate our services and work together to ensure we are meeting the needs of our most underserved communities,” said Judy Coffey, Senior Vice President and Area Manager of Kaiser Marin-Sonoma and a current Health Action Council member.
In a companion action, the Board approved several funding agreements with three community partners, investing $600,000 in education, health, and job training for low income youth in Sonoma County. These agreements will bolster scholarship funding for students pursuing health careers through the non-profit 10,000 Degrees, support leadership development and access to open space programming for youth through the Landpaths, and develop a coordinated job-placement and training program county-wide through the Sonoma County Office of Education.
To download the complete report:
About Measure of America and the Human Development Index
The report was produced by Measure of America, a research group of the Social Science Research Council. The group has produced similar reports for California and Marin County which map well being at the census tract level using the American Human Development Index (HDI), a composite measure of health, education and income. The HDI utilizes census data to measure life expectancy, educational attainment, school enrollment and individual earnings. The HDI is considered an international gold standard for assessing opportunities residents have to realize their full potential.