Navigate Up
Menu + Public Affairs
Home > News Releases


County Health Rankings

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – Santa Clara County continues to have some of the healthiest residents in California according to the 2011 County Health Rankings released today by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

This is the second year of the County Health Rankings, the most comprehensive report of its kind to rank the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states. A standard measure is used to determine how healthy people are and how long they live. The Rankings helps counties see where they are doing well and where they are not, so they can make changes to improve health.

According to this year’s Rankings, Santa Clara County ranked high on overall health— 4 out of 56 —compared to all counties that were ranked in the state. (Alpine and Sierra were not ranked)

According to the report, a number of factors were used in determining the differences in overall health of a community. These factors ranged 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.

“It is vital that local government supports the health and wellness of its residents for the benefit of the valley and the region,” said Dave Cortese, President of the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. “It is affirming that Santa Clara County is given such a high ranking. It is proof that our policies are working, such as reducing exposure to second-hand smoke, supporting public transportation, and providing the renowned Valley Medical Center and Valley Health Clinics.”

“This is an excellent and much-needed resource for counties nationwide,” stated Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Health Officer for Santa Clara County. “We are very pleased that our ranking shows that the health of Santa Clara County residents is very good, but we know there are significant disparities among residents of this community. The information provided will help us and our community partners to identify the barriers that may exist and find solutions to ensure that everyone has a chance for good health.”

”The report shows the progress we have made in some areas such as creating a healthier environment, and it shows where we can continue to improve,” said Liz Kniss, Chair of the Board's Health and Hospital Committee, “Our next goal should be to achieve a much better ranking in terms of morbidity, and we can do this by promoting exercise, preventive care and prenatal care, which are all aspects of the Affordable Care Act.”

“The County Health Rankings support the need for public and private sectors to take action together by implementing programs and policy changes to improve the health of our communities and the conditions of the environment in which we live,” commented Dan Peddycord, Director of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department. “While we maintained our overall excellent ranking, we made significant improvement in the area of access to healthy foods.” Peddycord adds, “A joint public and private partnership along with policy changes such as the Santa Clara County Restaurant Toy Ordinance facilitated the access to healthier food choices.”

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.

Santa Clara County’s Overall Health Outcomes Ranking - 4th out of 56 counties

  • Santa Clara County’s Mortality Ranking - 2nd out of 56 counties
  • Santa Clara County’s Morbidity Ranking - 19th out of 56 counties

“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).

Santa Clara County’s Overall Health Factors Ranking - 3rd out of 56 counties

  • Santa Clara County’s Health Behaviors Ranking - 4th out of 56 counties
  • Santa Clara County’s Clinical Care Ranking - 9th out of 56 counties
  • Santa Clara County’s Social & Economic Ranking - 4th out of 56 counties
  • Santa Clara County’s Physical Environment Ranking - 11th out of 56 counties

The most significant improvement was in the physical environment ranking moving up from 34th in 2010 to 11th in 2011. An increase in access to healthy foods at the zip code and census tract level (from 50% to 93%), was a major contributor to this increase. Countywide initiatives by the Public Health Department and community partners to reduce obesity and increase healthy food options are important factors that helped facilitate these changes.

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

The online report, available at, provides a snapshot of each county in California and compares each county’s overall health ranking. Along with the launch of the 2011 County Health Rankings, a new app was created,, This new app will give counties a new way of looking at health data in an interactive format. For example, the app can demonstrate how education and poverty affect health overall.

Media Contact: To schedule an interview with Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Health Officer, please call Joy Alexiou at 408.595.2936 or Molly Carbajal 408.406.8239; To schedule an interview with President Dave Cortese or Supervisor Liz Kniss, please call County Public Affairs at 408.299.5119.
Posted: March 30, 2011