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Portrait of Sonoma County 2021 Reveals Mixed Picture: Overall Uptick in Well-being and Deepening Inequities

A major new report released today, A Portrait of Sonoma County 2021 Update, delivers a mixed picture of health and well-being in the county. Taken as a whole, people in Sonoma County live longer, earn more money, stay in school and earn college degrees at higher rates than in other counties across California and the United States. Yet the report also reveals widely varying conditions of health and well-being for many people and neighborhoods in Sonoma County.

The Portrait of Sonoma County 2021 Update is a follow-up report to the groundbreaking 2014 Portrait of Sonoma County, which shifted our community’s understanding of what determines well-being in Sonoma County and how conditions vary between neighborhoods. Both reports are based on the Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations, the global standard for measuring the well-being of large population groups. The index compiles data on access to knowledge (education), standard of living (income), and life expectancy (health), then compares these data across race, ethnicity, gender and geography, providing a detailed picture of where and for whom preventable disparities persist in the county.

These findings have major implications and will help inform the way that local government and community-based organizations respond to the systemic problems that face our community. By understanding how our community is changing and who is being left behind this report will help us make targeted investments to improve the health and well-being of everyone in our community, said James Gore, chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.

While many neighborhoods in Sonoma County have seen improvements in HDI scores since 2014, the new report also reveals growing disparities across gender, racial groups, ethnic groups and individual communities.

Key findings in the updated report:

Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), and immigrant and undocumented community members persistently scored lower than other populations.

The Black community experienced the largest decline in HDI scores since 2014, while scores for Latinos have increased.

Latino, Native American, and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Island residents of Sonoma County have the lowest median personal earnings among the major racial and ethnic groups, about $29,000, $29,000, and $26,000, respectively.

69.3% of Black youth are enrolled in school compared to 77.1% of Latino youth and 87.8% of Asian youth.

The percentage of students with an Individualized Education
Program (IEP) a plan that lays out the special education instruction,
support and services a student with an identified disability needs to thrive in
school has increased in the Sonoma Valley Unified School District.

While the gap between neighborhoods with highest and lowest life expectancy has narrowed since the 2014 report, people living in the highest-scoring neighborhood, East Bennett Valley, still live 8.7 years longer than those in lowest-scoring Roseland neighborhoods.

We have come to a new understanding about opportunity and well being in Sonoma County, said Oscar Chavez, assistant director of the Sonoma County Human Services Department. In light of the losses that many among us have felt during the wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, this report makes it painfully clear that certain racial groups and neighborhoods in our county continue to be much more vulnerable to suffering and experience loss of opportunity. It is imperative that we identify the conditions that lead to such varied experiences and work together to address these disparities.

The Portrait of Sonoma 2021 Update is a multi-sector initiative of local governments, nonprofits, philanthropy and the business community coming together to gain deeper understanding of the inequities and uneven access to opportunity for people and neighborhoods. In addition to supporting development of an updated report to gauge trends in Sonoma County relative to the 2014 report, the initiative will shift in the coming months to working with community groups to co-create an action plan in response.

Its vitally important that we center the community in decisions that follow this report, said Karin Demarest, vice president for community impact at Community Foundation Sonoma County. The Portrait Update is just the beginning of this conversation. Building an inclusive Agenda for Action with broad community input is where true change will emerge.

The Portrait of Sonoma County 2021 Update report was produced by Measure of America, an initiative of the Social Science Research Council, in partnership with Community Foundation Sonoma County, the Peter E. Haas Jr. Family Fund, Sonoma County Office of Equity, Upstream Investments, and Sonoma County Departments of Human and Health Services. Additional funding support was provided by Career Technical Education Foundation, First 5 Sonoma County, Healthcare Foundation Northern Sonoma County, John Jordan Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, Petaluma Health Care District, Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation, Sonoma County Office of Education, Providence St. Joseph Health, Sutter Health, and United Way of the Wine Country.

The Portrait of Sonoma County 2021 Launch Event will be held tonight, Jan. 26, at 6 p.m. via Zoom. The presentation will be in Spanish and English with closed captioning available. Register here for the event: https://marincf.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_lQlB32UlTGefPQ1I_SkS0Q. Join or watch on Facebook live: https://www.facebook.com/SONOMACOUNTYHUMANSERVICES/

The Portrait of Sonoma County 2021 Update report is a supplement to A Portrait of California 2021-2022: Human Development & Housing Justice, published in November 2021. The updated Sonoma County report draws on U.S. Census data as well as other national, state and local public data from 2015-2020.

The full, downloadable Portrait of Sonoma County 2021 Update report is now available online at http://upstreaminvestments.org/Impact/Portrait-of-Sonoma-County/, along with data tables, interactive maps and more information. Ongoing updates and opportunities for the public to participate in creating the Agenda for Action are also available through these social media channels: @sonomacountyhumanservices and @cfsonomacounty.

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