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Marin Ranked Healthiest County in State

Marin County again has been ranked the healthiest of California’s 58 counties because of its relatively low burden of premature deaths, high scores in quality of life, clinical care, and social and economic factors, according to the 2023 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps[External] released March 29.

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The rankings, released annually by the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, allows counties across the nation to measure community health and well-being over time. Marin has been ranked No. 1 for 13 of the 14 years the rankings have been compiled.
The rankings, released annually by the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, allows counties across the nation to measure community health and well-being over time. Marin has been ranked No. 1 for 13 of the 14 years the rankings have been compiled.

Despite retaining top spot, work continues to tackle inequities

San Rafael, CA – Marin County again has been ranked the healthiest of California’s 58 counties because of its relatively low burden of premature deaths, high scores in quality of life, clinical care, and social and economic factors, according to the 2023 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps[External] released March 29.

The rankings, released annually by the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, allows counties across the nation to measure community health and well-being over time. Marin has been ranked No. 1 for 13 of the 14 years the rankings have been compiled.

Although Marin is consistently ranked among the healthiest counties in California, Marin County Public Health is determined to improve health for all and reduce disparities.

The rankings place greatest weight on quality and length of life. The average Marin resident can expect to live 85.2 years, among the longest in the nation. The report highlights specific factors that support health and longevity at a community level, and Marin ranks highly in almost all areas including access to high quality health care, clean air and water, and access to green space and healthy foods.

“There’s lots to celebrate here,” said Dr. Matt Willis, County of Marin Public Health Officer. “The rankings reinforce what we’re doing right and show us where we have work to do. It’s important to see that a single ranking can hide real disparities in Marin.”

While Marin consistently fares well in most measures, the county falls short in the same two areas year after year: health inequities between communities, and high rates of substance use.

Life expectancy among African American residents in Marin County is 78.3 years, a difference of nearly seven years from the countywide average. The rankings also highlight racial disparities that continue to drive the gap in life expectancy, including disparities in income, housing, health care, and education.

Those known inequities fuel the County’s work to address factors including mental health and housing, as outlined in Marin County’s 2022 Race Equity Plan and the 2018 Health and Human Services Plan for Health and Wellness Equity.

To better inform health equity efforts, Marin County Public Health is developing a data dashboard to describe life expectancy and causes of preventable deaths in all Marin communities. The local data will allow County and community partners to develop informed, equity-focused interventions and help residents participate in improving the health of their own neighborhoods through participation in initiatives such as the County’s participatory budgeting process.

“We remain committed to doing the hard work and changing the outcomes so all in Marin can thrive and live healthy lives,” said Niccore Tyler, Marin Health and Human Services’ Chief Strategy Officer.

“During the pandemic, the success of COVID-19 Community Response Teams demonstrated the value of leading our work through an equity lens to achieve equitable outcomes,” she continued. “While Marin is a healthy place for many, we must recognize that the benefits of our thriving county are not jointly shared. Race is the largest determining factor for outcomes related to health, wealth, and overall quality of life. This is why we, as a county, must continue to lead with race in achieving equitable health outcomes.”

Marin also stands out for higher than state-average overdose deaths. High rates of substance use in all Marin communities is a consistent theme in the rankings. New efforts to curb overdose include the launch of OD Free Marin, a countywide coalition to promote awareness, increase the availability of the overdose reversal spray naloxone, and increase access to substance abuse treatment and mental health services.

Todd Schirmer, Director of Marin County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, said Marin residents are dying from substance use at alarming rates, impacting families, schools, and communities.

“Substance use is a complex problem and requires innovative, system-wide solutions,” Schirmer said. “Marin is increasing its investments to flatten the overdose curve in multiple areas, including deploying additional substance use care navigators, enhancing outreach efforts to overdose survivors, and implementing naloxone vending machines throughout the county.”

Willis concluded, “This report reinforces key lessons of the pandemic. While we’re fortunate to live in a healthy community, significant gaps remain. We’ll have a lot more to celebrate when everyone in Marin has the same chance for a long and healthy life.”

Each year, the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute updates the factors evaluated in the rankings to match emerging public health issues; this year Civic Infrastructure and Participation were added as priority metrics.

Visit www.MarinHHS.org for more information or review Marin’s ranking in more detail at CountyHealthRankings.org.

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Business

Banning Menthol Cigarettes: California-Based Advocacy Group Joins Suit Against Federal Govt.

A California based non-governmental organization, The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), has joined two other public health advocacy groups in a second lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the agency’s inaction on issuing a final rule banning menthol cigarettes.

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“Menthol cigarettes have had a devastating and disproportionate impact on the health of Black Americans,” said Yolanda Lawson, President of the NMA. “Smoking related diseases are the number one cause of death in the Black community.”
“Menthol cigarettes have had a devastating and disproportionate impact on the health of Black Americans,” said Yolanda Lawson, President of the NMA. “Smoking related diseases are the number one cause of death in the Black community.”

By Edward Henderson, California Black Media  

A California based non-governmental organization, The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), has joined two other public health advocacy groups in a second lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the agency’s inaction on issuing a final rule banning menthol cigarettes.

The suit, filed by Christopher Leung of Leung Law, PLLC on behalf of the AATCLC, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and the National Medical Association (NMA) comes more than seven months after the FDA’s established date for finalizing a new rule against menthol cigarettes.

“We are a group of Californians, although we have expanded now. We were formed in 2008 to inform and direct the activities of commercial tobacco control and prevention as they affect African Americans and African immigrants in this country,” said Carol McGruder, co-chair of the AATCLC.

McGruder was speaking during a press briefing April 2 organized to announce the lawsuit. with representatives from the ASH, NMA and other organizations.

“Menthol cigarettes have had a devastating and disproportionate impact on the health of Black Americans,” said Yolanda Lawson, President of the NMA. “Smoking related diseases are the number one cause of death in the Black community.”

The lawsuit also follows the FDA’s 15-year delay in creating national policy that would ban cigarettes made with compound menthol, a minty substance that cigarette makers infuse into their tobacco products, making them more addictive and harmful.

Despite significant reductions in overall smoking rates in the US, smoking among poor, less educated and marginalized groups remains high. Every year, 45,000 Black Americans prematurely die from tobacco-caused diseases. An estimated 85% of them smoked menthol cigarettes.

“This disproportionate use of menthol cigarettes among Black Americans is not a coincidence,” Dr. Yerger continued. “I was one of the first tobacco documents researchers out of UCSF who exposed the tobacco industry’s systematic, predatory marketing schemes to dump highly concentrated menthol cigarette marketing into urban inner-city areas.”

In 2011, the FDA’s own scientific advisory committee concluded that the “Removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States.”

If the sale of menthol-flavored cigarettes is indeed banned, the FDA projects a 15.1% drop in smoking within 40 years, which would help save between 324,000 to 654,000 lives.

As a result of the Plaintiffs’ first lawsuit, the FDA made the landmark determination to add menthol to the list of banned characterizing flavors in cigarettes.

On the contrary, tobacco-aligned groups in the past have argued that banning menthol cigarettes would be impact federal and state budgets with the loss of nearly $6.6 billion in cigarette sales taxes. Menthol cigarettes account for over one-third of the U.S. cigarette market.

Other arguments from tobacco-backed groups include unintended consequences of a ban such as increased policing in Black and Brown communities due to contraband cigarettes. However, health advocates have dismissed this claim stating the ban would apply to companies that make or sell menthol cigarettes, not individual smokers.

By law, the United States has two months to respond to the lawsuit. The feds can respond to it or file a motion to dismiss.

If the suit is successful, the FDA would have 90 days to make a final ruling.

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Alameda County

District Attorney Pamela Price Will Face Recall Election on November General Election Ballot

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors scheduled the recall election against Alameda District Attorney Pamela Price for November 5, coinciding with the 2024 General Election. The decision comes after weeks of controversy and drawn-out discussions amongst county officials, recall proponents, and opponents, and legal advisors.

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Alameda District Attorney Pamela Price’s future will be determined on the November General Election ballot instead of a special recall election. On the left, DA Pamela Price. On the right, principal officer of the recall campaign Save Alameda For Everyone (SAFE). Collage by Magaly Muñoz
Alameda District Attorney Pamela Price’s future will be determined on the November General Election ballot instead of a special recall election. On the left, DA Pamela Price. On the right, principal officer of the recall campaign Save Alameda For Everyone (SAFE). Collage by Magaly Muñoz

By Magaly Muñoz

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors scheduled the recall election against Alameda District Attorney Pamela Price for November 5, coinciding with the 2024 General Election.

The decision comes after weeks of controversy and drawn-out discussions amongst county officials, recall proponents, and opponents, and legal advisors.

Recall proponents submitted 123,374 signatures before the March 5 deadline, which resulted in 74,757 valid signatures counted by the Registrar of Voters (ROV).

The recall election will cost Alameda County $4 million and will require them to hire hundreds of new election workers to manage the demand of keeping up with the federal, state and local elections and measures.

Save Alameda For Everyone (SAFE), one of the two recall campaigns against Price, held a press conference minutes before the Board’s special meeting asking for the Supervisors to schedule the election in August instead of consolidating with the November election.

Supporters of the recall have said they were not concerned with the $20 million price tag the special election would’ve cost the county if they had put it on the ballot in the summer. Many have stated that the lives of their loved ones are worth more than that number.

“What is the cost of a life?” recall supporters have asked time and time again.

Opponents of the recall election have been vehemently against a special date to vote, stating it would cost taxpayers too much money that could be reinvested into social programs to help struggling residents.

A special election could’ve cost the county’s budget to exceed its current deficit of $68 million, which was a driving factor in the three supervisors who voted for a consolidated election.

“Bottom line is, I can’t in good conscience support a special election that is going to cost the county $20 million,” Board President Nate Miley said.

Many speakers asked Miley and Keith Carson to recuse themselves from the vote, claiming that they have had improper involvement with either the recall proponents or Price herself.

Both supervisors addressed the concerns stating that regardless of who they associate themselves with or what their political beliefs are, they have to do their jobs, no matter the outcome.

Carson noted that although he’s neither supporting nor opposing Price as district attorney, he believes that whoever is elected next to take that position should have a reasonable amount of time to adjust to the job before recalls are considered.

Reports of recall attempts started as soon as April 2023 when Price had only been in office three months.

Price and her campaign team Protect the Win have been adamant that the voters who elected her to office will not fall for the “undemocratic” practices from the recall campaign and they are prepared to put all efforts forward to guarantee she stays in office.

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Bay Area

Radical Proposal to Limit the Power of Oakland’s Police Commission

Since February 2023, several stakeholders, including the Coalition for Police Accountability, began to work on amending the Enabling Ordinance of Section 604, Article VI of the Oakland City Charter. The Enabling Ordinance was approved by 83.19% of Oakland voters and established the civilian membered Police Commission (the Commission), the Community Police Review Agency (CPRA) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The recent process to amend was focused on addressing some of the inefficiencies and disruptions that have occurred with the Police Commission and to establish guard rails and procedures to mitigate such issues in the future.

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Cathy Leonard, President Coalition for Police Accountability. Courtesy photo. Coalition for Police Accountability logo.

By Coalition for Police Accountability

Since February 2023, several stakeholders, including the Coalition for Police Accountability, began to work on amending the Enabling Ordinance of Section 604, Article VI of the Oakland City Charter. The Enabling Ordinance was approved by 83.19% of Oakland voters and established the civilian membered Police Commission (the Commission), the Community Police Review Agency (CPRA) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The recent process to amend was focused on addressing some of the inefficiencies and disruptions that have occurred with the Police Commission and to establish guard rails and procedures to mitigate such issues in the future. Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Kevin Jenkins are the authors of this legislation which is still in process.

A counter proposal was presented by Councilmember Jenkins to drastically amend Article VI, Section 604 of the City Charter. The proposal would remove the selection process of the police chief from the Commission and give that power solely to the mayor.  Currently, the Commission selects the candidates from which the mayor chooses the chief and presents them to the mayor who selects the final candidate. The proposal also moves the OIG to the Auditor’s Office. These proposals would rob the Commission and the OIG of independence from City Hall which 83.19% of Oakland voters sought in voting for Measure LL in 2016 and Measure S1 in 2018.

Our position is that the issues that have been raised about the hiring of the Chief, the appointment authority of Commissioners, and the scope of CPRA can all be incorporated into the ongoing collaboration of all the stakeholders working on the Enabling Ordinance. Those stakeholders are the two authors, the Coalition of Police Accountability, the Police Commission and the community members who have participated in this extensive work which has yet to be completed and approved by the City Council.  The Charter is very clear that the Commission hires the IG and that the IG is supervised by the Commission. The ordinance cannot override that provision of the Charter.

Amending the Charter is not the vehicle that should be used to make amendments. The proposed Enabling Ordinance should be given a chance to effect positive change before making radical and undemocratic revisions.

For further information, please contact the Coalition for Police Accountability by reaching out to Mariano Contreras at puralata1@gmail.com.

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