The Sonoma County Gazette: Community News Magazine
Sonoma County Gazette
| more

Photo Gallery

Portrait of Lower Russian River Community Health and Well-being


Portrait of Lower Russian River Community Health and Well-being

By Dr. Jared Garrison-Jakel, Ernesto Garay, and Jacob Rich 

The Russian River Resource Area Resources and Advocates (RRARA) community coalition formed over 5 years ago to increase collaboration among social service organizations serving the lower Russian River Area and engage in joint strategies to promote a healthy, connected community. 

RRARA focuses on the lower Russian River region from Forestville to Jenner as well as Fort Ross and Cazadero.  Group members  include the West County Health Centers, El Molino High School, Community Family Service Agency, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, Sonoma County Sheriff, St Joseph Health,  River to Coast Children’s Services and the Russian River Counselors.

At a recent meeting, the collaborative examined Russian River community data from the Portrait of Sonoma County, a report released  through the Department of Public Health earlier this year that offers an in-depth look at the well being of Sonoma County communities.  

While Sonoma County is considered by some to be one of the best places to live in the world, the Portrait of Sonoma County shows how many of the county’s residents don’t share the same opportunities to reach their full potential. 

The report identifies gaps in local health, education and living standards based on geography, race and gender. This data is consistent with extensive research that shows that people with greater educational and economic opportunities live longer healthier lives. This data informs and supports the groups goal to work collectively towards a shared vision of long-term community health and prosperity.

The group examined the data according to census tract and the local data that stood out to the group follows:

Human Development Index (HDI): a measurement of how well people are doing made up of three main measurements; health, access to knowledge, and standard of living. Scores are put in an index with 0 as the lowest and 10 the highest and averaged.

Guerneville/Rio Nido Census Tract 5.29

Monte Rio Census Tract 4.64

Forestville Census tract 4.57

Comparison: SW Sebastopol Census tract 6.96

Analysis: The Monte Rio and Forestville Tracts rank in the bottom 25% for County census tracts on the Human Development Index while Guerneville/Rio Nido ranks in the bottom 40%.


Life Expectancy: the average number of years someone is expected to live in the census tract.

Guerneville/Rio Nido Census Tract 80.1

Monte Rio Census Tract 79.7

Forestville Census tract 79.7

Comparison: W Sebastopol/Graaton 84.1

Analysis: The average person in the Russian River census tracts can expect to live at least 4 years less than someone in the West Sebastopol/Graton Census tract. All three Russian River tracts are in the bottom 40% for life expectancy for County census tracts.


Education Index: based on highest degree attained along with school enrollment among 3-24 year olds.

Guerneville/Rio Nido Census Tract 4.35

Monte Rio Census Tract 4.58

Forestville Census tract 4.15

Comparison: SW Sebastopol 6.92

Analysis: The education indexes for the three Russian River tracts fall in the bottom 40% for County census tracts. Among the Russian River tracts the Forestville tract has the highest educational attainment and the lowest school enrollment while the opposite is true for the Monte Rio tract.


Income Index: Median personal earnings for workers age 16 and above. 

Guerneville/Rio Nido Census Tract $34,547

Monte Rio Census Tract $25,553

Forestville Census tract $26,561

Comparison: SW Sebastopol $44,469

Analysis: The Guerneville/ Rio Nido tract falls into the bottom 50% for census tracts in the county for income while Forestville and Guerneville fall into the bottom 25% for income. Both the Guerneville/Rio Nido and Monte Rio tracts have high poverty and child poverty rates in the top 20% for the county while Forestville’s rate was in the top 40%.


This local data is helpful information for community planning and coordination and is being used to inform RRARA’s efforts to promote prosperity and well being in the lower Russian River area. 

If this data resonates with concerns you may have as well as interest to work collectively to promote opportunities for a prosperous Russian River community consider becoming involved with the Russian River Resource Area Resources and Advocates. The next meeting is Wednesday January 21st, at 8:30 AM at Fife Creek Commons in Guerneville. You can also email Jacob Rich at or call at 824-560 to learn how you can become involved.

The Portrait of Sonoma County report can be found at